We are pleased to introduce our July 2019 media disputes newsletter. In our coverage of events, we discuss how data, communications and tech disputes are ramping up, a lecture on online harms being given at Downing College, Cambridge, by our Head of Media Disputes, and how claimants are continuing to pursue and win phone hacking claims.

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Data, communications, and tech disputes ramping up

In this era of the inexorable and rapid rise of all things digital, data, communications and tech, the law has been playing catch-up with its recent proposals, legislation, procedural changes, case law and regulations designed to update the legal regime so that it is equipped for this age.

For example, think of the introduction in 2017 of the English High Court’s Media and Communications List, the implementation in 2018 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the commitment to introduce the much delayed EU ePrivacy Regulation, and in 2019 the EU’s Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, the EU’s Online Platform’s Regulation, and the UK’s Online Harms White Paper.

The UK this month also launched a consultation on how its government can support the development and secure use of digital identities fit for the UK’s growing digital economy . There are many more examples, and the way data, communications, tech and the internet are governed look set to change dramatically over the next decade.

So far, much of the legal work in relation to data, communications and tech has been with regard to compliance and ensuring companies are up to speed with new or soon to be introduced legal, procedural and regulatory requirements. That work continues, but many litigators are now seeing this as a large growth area, with a number of law firms across the UK increasing their disputes capability for this work. They are probably right to do so if the latest news is anything to go by.

For instance, this month the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) issued notices of intent to fine British Airways a record £183.39m and Marriott International, Inc £99.2m in relation to breaches of the GDPR. These fines are massive in comparison to earlier data breach financial penalties imposed by the ICO, which were capped at £0.5m until the GDPR was implemented in May 2018.

As corporates digitalise more and more, the volume of data they process increases and the number of breaches, fines, and civil claims are likely to rise. Companies that are particularly vulnerable to huge ICO fines are those that obtain, process, and store large amounts of data, such as media, communications, and tech businesses.

Regulatory decisions are also likely to lead to civil litigation where individuals seek compensation, and litigation funders are increasingly seeing tech-litigation, particularly group actions, as a key growth market.

For instance, this month, Doorway Capital said it was ramping up its support for internet-related group litigation, and that it predicted a “significant increase” in the volume of these types of actions. Claims it intends to focus on include internet media liability, data breaches, unauthorised disclosure of personal information, loss of digital assets, breaches of tech service and supply contracts, and business interruption and loss from network issues.

The founder of Doorway Capital, Steve Din, said: “The very fact that members of Gen Alpha [ie, the children of millennials] consider the internet and smartphones as an integral part of their lives, and not merely the tool millennials consider it to be, means that not only will the incidence of litigation for data breach very likely soar over the next five years, so will quantum of loss sought to be recovered.”

It is understood that compensation cases are already underway against the likes of Ticketmaster, British Airways, Equifax, Dixons Carphone and numerous other companies.


Stewarts to give lecture on 1 August at Downing College, Cambridge, upon UK online harm proposals

Stewarts’ Head of Media Disputes, Ryan Dunleavy, is delivering a lecture on Thursday 1 August at Downing College, Cambridge, on the UK government’s Online Harms White Paper and the UK Information Commissioner’s proposed Age Appropriate Design Code. The lecture will cover the potential impact of these on tech companies, media organisations and advertisers, and the possibility of function creep on the part of the Information Commissioner’s Office. This is the 22nd year of the IT Law Summer School and a link to the event is here.

Ryan has 15 years’ experience of conducting litigation and regulatory disputes, predominantly in matters relating to digital and traditional media, communications, privacy, confidentiality, data, intellectual property, and technology, many of which have global legal issues attached to them. He acts for clients in court proceedings, before other adjudication bodies, and at the pre-action stage.


Phone hacking: News of the World

Phone hacking cases against News Group Newspapers (NGN) rumbled on this month, with Heather Mills receiving an apology that was read out at an English High Court hearing.

She also received payment of a significant sum as part of a settlement agreement for her phone-hacking claim against the News of the World.

Ms Mills said that the phone hacking had “an extremely detrimental impact on [her] personal life and that of [her] family”.

The former wife of Beatle Paul McCartney was one of 90 people who recently settled their privacy claims against NGN. Phone hacking claims continue to cost NGN significant amounts of money and it set aside £14.7m to deal with costs relating to ongoing cases in its 2018 accounts.

The police identified thousands of possible victims of phone hacking by the News of the World. A large number of them came forward with claims over several years.

Hacking can take many guises, including of mobile telephones, email accounts, social media accounts, and of more formal records such as medical documents and financial information. All of these are actionable by claimants wishing to take out civil compensation claims and are often a criminal offence.


In-depth analysis

First court decision on whether to restrict reporting on a transgender man who gave birth

In this article Ryan Dunleavy, Partner and Head of Stewarts’ Media Disputes Department, considers the legal impact of the first court case in the western world relating to the anonymity of a transgender man who gave birth to a child and wished to be registered as the father.

Read the full article here – First court decision on whether to restrict reporting on a transgender man who gave birth



You can find further information regarding our expertise, experience and team on our Media Disputes page.

If you require assistance from our team, please contact us or alternatively request a call back from one of our lawyers by submitting this form.



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