Life and Law Online: Defamation, freedom of expression and the web

Tuesday 20 November 2012, 5 - 8pm

Hunton & Williams, 30 St Mary Axe, London EC3A 8EP

CPD accredited (2½ hours).

  • £50 – Standard fee
  • £45 – JUSTICE or Media Lawyers Association members
  • £25 – NGO or charity rate

See Programme          See Speakers

Key experts explore the latest developments in libel, privacy and freedom of expression online, covering:

  • the claimant perspective
  • the defence perspective
  • challenges for intermediaries and third party publishers, including ISPs and websites
  • what the future holds

Your client wants allegedly defamatory information pulled from a blog, a newspaper article or a social media site

  • can you help?
  • would it matter if the article were posted in a comments trail or in the body of an article?
  • what if the publisher were a national organisation or a kitchen-table blogger?
  • what if the post was anonymous?

A student activist consults you about a take down request

  • what is your advice?
  • can her internet service provider (ISP) be forced to remove material from her blog or block access?
  • what if the ISP is out of the jurisdiction?

The explosion of social media is a boon to free expression and the exchange of ideas. Bloggers and tweeters challenge traditional media outlets. And most businesses use social networks as part of an online presence. The transformative power of accessible commentary and immediate communications was underlined by last year's Arab Spring and August riots.

How has the law responded to this paradigm shift? The internet is not a lawless space – the rules that govern our conduct offline also stretch into cyberspace. But, the particular application of the general law to online behaviour raises new challenges. In a number of key areas, the law is evolving and new proposals have been made to govern and regulate our lives online.

Practitioners must know existing law and be mindful of new developments if they are to meet the needs of clients whose on- and offline lives are becoming increasingly interdependent.

Fast-changing case-law on online defamation has, in part, prompted the government's Defamation Bill. The bill proposes new responsibilities for third party publishers – including web services and internet service providers. The proposals aim to strike a balance between the right to free expression and the right to individual privacy and reputation. They are not without controversy.


4.45pm    Registration

5.20pm    Chair's Introduction, Rosemary Jay, Hunton & Williams

5.30pm    Libel, privacy and freedom of expression online: A claimant's perspective, Ashley Hurst, Olswang LLP

  • Who is responsible?
  • Which cause of action?
  • Key procedural issues: jurisdiction, costs and injunctions?

6.10pm    Libel, privacy and freedom of expression online: A defence perspective, Keith Mathieson, Reynolds Porter Chamberlain

  • Is an online publisher in any different position legally from a traditional publisher?
  • Issues relating to user generated content
  • Online publication and the Leveson Inquiry

6.50pm    The man in the middle? Intermediaries and third party publishers, Catrin Evans, One Brick Court 

  • What is publication online?
  • When are you in the jurisdiction?
  • When to take down?

7.20pm    The future: the Defamation Bill, Leveson and beyond, Hugh Tomlinson QC, Matrix Chambers

7.45pm    A view from the frontline, Emma Jelley, Google

8.00pm    Close


Rosemary Jay, Senior Attorney, Hunton & Williams

advises on high-level privacy, data protection and confidentiality issues and is recognised as one of the UK's top lawyers in the area. She is author of Data Protection Law & Practice (Sweet & Maxwell, 2007), a contributing editor on data protection to The White Book (Sweet & Maxwell, 2012) and an editor of the Encyclopedia of Data Protection and Privacy (Sweet & Maxwell, 2012). She has worked with the Council of Europe and the European Commission on privacy issues in Europe and the Commonwealth Secretariat in West Africa.

Ashley Hurst, Partner, Olswang LLP

is solicitor-advocate specialising in particular in media and internet-related disputes. His practice covers all sides of the media and internet spectrum, acting for broadcasters, publishers, content providers, website operators and internet intermediaries on a whole range of disputes, from defamation actions and privacy injunctions to contractual and regulatory disputes. He also acts for blue-chip companies and high net worth individuals on reputation management issues and has been described as an 'internet defamation expert' by the Legal 500.

Keith Mathieson, Partner, Reynolds Porter Chamberlain.

advises a wide range of national newspapers (including the Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Sun, Daily Telegraph, Independent and Financial Times), book and magazine publishers, other media companies and media liability insurers.

He has been closely involved in the Leveson Inquiry, representing Associated Newspapers Limited, publisher of the Mail Online, now one of the biggest newspaper websites in the world.

He is the general editor and principal author of The Privacy Law Handbook (Law Society Publishing, 2010).

Catrin Evans, One Brick Court

has a wide-ranging media and information law practice in the higher courts. In addition to defamation and all claims involving false or damaging publications she has particular experience of privacy laws, having been involved from the beginning in many of the developing privacy/Article 8/Human Rights Act cases. She is acting for Google in Tamiz.

Catrin was awarded Junior of the Year (Defamation/Privacy) at the Chambers & Partners Bar Awards 2008.

Hugh Tomlinson QC, Matrix

has a wide-ranging private and public law practice. He is a noted specialist in media and information law including defamation, confidence, privacy and data protection. His practice also includes advisory work and litigation in the freedom of information field.

He is joint author of The Law of Human Rights (Oxford, 2009) and The Law of Personal Privacy (Hart, forthcoming).

Emma Jelley, Google

is Senior Regional Counsel (UK & Ireland) at Google. 


Event details

Location:Hunton & Williams, 30 St Mary Axe, London EC3A 8EP
Times:5.20pm - 8.00pm
Date(s):20 November 2012


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