Media Law: Reputation Management covers the key areas of law used by those who seek to build and protect a media 'brand' for commercial gain. The module will open with a detailed consideration of libel law and how that protects the public image of an individual (or, indeed, an entity with legal personhood). Whereas perhaps three decades ago the law in this area seemed well settled, the challenges of the internet combined with much of the Defamation Act 2013 remaining to be refined through interpretation by the courts makes this an important and ongoing focus for study by the commercial media lawyer. The second aspect of law which the module will look at is the developing area of privacy. While traditionally English law has not offered direct protection for privacy, a wide range of las have been used in effect to prevent or at least compensate individuals aggrieved by private elements of their lives being published to the masses. Sometimes this has simply been about the privacy of an individual, while in other circumstances it has been about the protection of a direct commercial relationship (such as that between the Douglases and OK Magazine in Douglas v Hello). The development of the tort of Misuse of Private Information, a result of the application of the Human Rights Act 1998, has arguably created a de facto common law privacy protection which continues to explore new nuances at the discretion of the courts. The continued existence of the tabloid press, the fallout from the phone-hacking scandal, and the apparently unending appetite on the part of the general public for 'celebrity' gossip indicates that this is an area of law which will continue to see development for some time to come. The final area of law to be covered in this module focuses on intellectual property in a media context, in particular the use of IP in personality rights and, more broadly, as a means of controlling an individual's brand. As of yet, English law does not recognise personality rights, instead protecting only those who choose to actively merchandise themselves via a form of passing off ('false endorsement'). The course will open up the debate on this issue and consider the potential for this to be expanded, as well as other ways in which IP may be used to protect personal reputation (or not - see, for instance, application of HUbbard v Vosper in this regard).
Although English law will be the primary context in which this module will be taught, it is intended that this will provide more a 'case study' context in which the issues raised will be debated rather than a course solely about English law per se. Laws in other jurisdictions (such as, for example, the ongoing debate on defamation reform in Scotland and Northern Ireland) will be raised and discussed where appropriate.
Final Assessment Exercise