Media & Communications Disputes

Overview

We boast one of the largest media disputes and reputation management teams in London. We advise on defamation, privacy, data claims and contempt issues, and we also handle wider media litigation, including IP claims and film, TV, music and video game disputes.

We support newspapers, broadcasters, film companies, publishers, podcasts, journalists, insurers and NGOs, as well as individuals, both in an out of the public eye. We are retained by many major newspapers including The Sun, The Mirror, The Times, and Sunday Times.

What we do

  • Our Team

    We have been at the forefront of media cases over the last 10 years, and we are well known for representing clients who face difficult claims brought by the state, including police forces, or who are threatened with  criminal sanctions arising from media law issues. We also advise on political cases, or those involving high profile individuals from the worlds of sport or film.

    Our team members are experienced at dealing with online and social media content of all descriptions, including identifying anonymous internet posters and securing the removal of unlawful material, often involving multiple jurisdictions.

    The team advise on newsgathering and other pre-publication/broadcast issues, often against the pressure of deadlines, and can prepare for injunctions with minimal notice. Having highly experienced lawyers at all levels, we conduct litigation efficiently at every stage, including representing clients before the appellate courts in the UK and internationally.

  • Defamation

    We are ranked by all the legal directories as a top tier law firm in advising clients on defamation.

    We advise some of the UK and global leading publishers on their content and in defending and responding to claims of defamation. We also act for individual and corporate claimants in protecting their reputations. We have acted and are noted in some of the UK’s leading cases in this area.

    We successfully represented newspaper publishers in three of the highest profile and most hard-fought libel trials of the last decade:

    Johnny Depp v News Group Newspapers Ltd and Dan Wootton – defended The Sun and its Executive Editor against a libel claim brought by the actor over allegations that he beat his wife.

    Andrew Mitchell v News Group Newspapers Ltd ­– defended The Sun against a libel claim brought by the Conservative MP over the “Plebgate” affair.

    Hunt v Times Newspapers Ltd – defended the Sunday Times against a libel claim brought by an organised crime boss.

  • Privacy & Data Protection

    We are leaders in advising clients on the cutting edge of evolving privacy and data protection law, and are regularly called upon for clear and definitive advice often under extreme time pressure.

    We advise individuals and organisations, particularly where there is risk of a material impact on brands and reputation. We often defend applications for privacy injunctions at short notice, or advise on the limits of areas of reporting. We acted for News Group Newspapers Ltd in the landmark ‘PJS’ privacy injunction case in the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

    We provide training for company clients on data protection compliance and mitigating risk, and we can deal with any regulatory complaints involving the ICO which might arise.

    These issues frequently arise for corporate clients in both media and non media sectors, as well as private individuals. We are top ranked in the legal directories for our expertise in handling cases from both claimant and defendant perspectives.

  • Entertainment Industry Disputes

    We advise clients in the film, TV and music, gaming, and publishing industries when they encounter disputes in all areas of their businesses and professions, including: IP and broadcasting rights, contract or royalty disputes, data protection, funding structures and regulatory issues.

    Our team members have specialist industry knowledge and are recognised as leaders in their field in dealing with claims in the UK and internationally. We have a strong network of lawyers in other jurisdictions with whom we work closely on international claims.

    We represent a diversity of clients: whether investors, artists, media companies, owner managers and rights holders, all of whom rely on our swift and commercial approach.

    Recent cases include successfully representing Oscar nominated director Michael Radford at the Court of Appeal, and defending Scorched Earth Services in a multimillion pound fraudulent misrepresentation claim.

  • Publishing Disputes

    We defend our clients’ freedom of expression and right to publish, and are highly ranked in legal directories for our work with them.

    Our publishing clients include major groups in this jurisdiction and overseas as well as leading independent book publishers, insurers, authors and literary agents, magazine publishers in traditional and online formats and podcasts. The areas in which we act include all aspects of content and intellectual property as well as contractual disputes and specialist fields such as agency regulations. We work with lawyers in other jurisdictions to plan effective transnational publication and litigation strategies when needed.

    We defend publication all the time, both in and out of court. Cases in which we have successfully litigated the right to publish include:

    • Koutsogiannis v Random House Group – the leading case on meaning in libel with reference to book publishing.
    • Kleiman v Andrew O’Hagan – resisting an order to turn over journalistic material to a Florida court in an $11 Billion dispute over the founder of Bitcoin.
    • OPO v James Rhodes and Canongate – overturning an injunction barring publication of controversial autobiography by musician James Rhodes.
  • IP & Rights Disputes

    We have specialist experience in protecting our clients’ intellectual property in all aspects of their operations in the UK and internationally.

    We are recognised as leaders in our field and act for retail brands, artists and rights owners, photographers and content owners, publishers, broadcasters, fashion labels, and manufacturers and tech companies. Our team is actively involved in brand protection, taking enforcement action against IP infringement where needed, including injunctions, seeking damages and removal. We are acknowledged for our practical and commercial approach, based on our strong understanding of the industry.

    “The team is welcoming and approachable, making it easy to ask questions – even though everybody is busy, they always have time for you.” Legal 500, 2021

  • Representing the Media in Criminal Investigations

    We have specialist expertise in media-related criminal law. We represent journalists, newspapers, broadcasters, publishers and other media organisations when subject to police investigations or prosecution, and advise on contempt of court, reporting restrictions, police requests for journalistic material, and protection of sources.

    We can respond to emergencies requiring immediate action, such as raids on media premises and journalists’ homes, within hours of being instructed, and arrange urgent hearings in the Crown Court where journalistic material is seized or is sought by the police. Our team also provides a range of information programmes and tailored in-house courses to media and commercial organisations and journalists.

  • Content Clearance: Online, Print & Film

    We act for the press and online and traditional publishers, film makers and writers, unions and other campaigners.

    We advise on their content in areas including: defamation, privacy, data protection and confidentiality, contempt of court, official secrecy and DSMA Notices, copyright, reporting restrictions (including those relating to children and young persons), obscenity, freedom of information, criminal liability and protection of sources. We also advise on the regulatory issues associated with the publication and broadcast of this content.

  • Reputation & Crisis Management

    It is crucial for our clients, whether they are companies or individuals, to get expert advice and a swift and proportionate response to a potential reputational crisis. We work closely with public relations advisers to ensure the strategy is aligned with appropriate and effective legal action.

    Our experienced lawyers can deal with all challenges, including journalistic, criminal and regulatory investigations, breaches of confidence and privacy defamation and malicious falsehood, harassment and press intrusion, internet attacks (including viral advertising), whistleblowers, and the application of the Freedom of Information and Data Protection Acts. We are recognised by the legal directories as leaders in the field.

  • Testimonials

    “They know the market and have a team of effective litigators. They are pragmatic and will not encourage clients down paths that waste money.” Legal 500, 2022

    “Highly recommend the media disputes team at Simons Muirhead Burton. Consistently do a fantastic job on every matter.” Legal 500, 2022

    “Excellent lawyers who offer swift advice which is uncommonly clear, helpful, and insightful. Have a very strong understanding of journalism and its goals.” Legal 500, 2022

    “A happy environment and knowledgeable accessible staff at all levels.” Legal 500, 2021

    “I’m impressed by the way this practice works consistently as a cohesive team…” Legal 500, 2021

    “Team spirit is the strongest aspect of Simons Muirhead Burton” Legal 500, 2021

    “The attention to detail and client care is exceptional. The office itself is friendly and welcoming, a big plus.” Legal 500, 2021

    “Very approachable and have total understanding of clients’ needs, often 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Great associates too.” Legal 500, 2020

    “Team spirit is the strongest aspect of Simons Muirhead & Burton – this has appealed to and worked for me through all the years I’ve had dealings with them.” Legal 500, 2020

    “Wonderful and very approachable.” Legal 500, 2020

    “This has been the best external legal team I have dealt with in 20 years, provides both pre-publication advice and advice in responding to legal issues arising from published articles.” Legal 500, 2020

    “A very strong firm with a team specialising in all aspects of media law. Great experience and knowledge of their specialisms.” Legal 500, 2020

    “They understand how the newspaper industry works and give us A-star treatment.” Chambers & Partners, 2021

    “They are really strong on all fronts and do really high-quality work as a firm. It is a very powerful team.” Chambers & Partners, 2021

    “They are approachable, friendly and super professional.” Chambers & Partners, 2021

    “They provide an excellent service to us and have depth on their team.” Chambers & Partners, 2021

    “An impressively tight-knit team with everyone interacting to find a solution…” Chambers & Partners, 2021

    “A team of accomplished litigators and strategists supported by highly talented associates” Chambers & Partners, 2020

  • “depth, expertise and years of experience in the field.”

     

    Chambers & Partners, 2022
  • “The care and attention they give is exemplary.”

    Chambers & Partners, 2022