media law

Commscamp 2015 round-up

A plate of cupcakes decorated with piped icing and fruit

Commscamp – the annual unconference for communications-types in and around the public sector. I went, I found it hard to choose between the sessions on offer, I listened to interesting people talk about a host of communications topics, I ate cake.

What did I learn?

  • the organising team make running an unconference look easy, which takes huge skill considering the amount of time and effort they must have put in to pull everything together – huge round of applause to them all, especially for the work that means tickets are free
  • the more you pitch sessions, the less nerve-wracking it gets – feel the fear and do it anyway
  • it is impossible to get to all of the sessions you’d like to at an unconference
  • I love that nobody is ‘just’ anything, you are you and know your stuff whatever your job title may be
  • there are plenty of people out there giving things a try and they’re happy to share their learning
  • you will never have time to speak to all of the people that you’d like to, and it’s hard to use real names if you know someone by their twitter handle
  • that I can’t condense what I heard in the sessions I attended into one post, so have captured bulletpoints from:
  • the unconference format is one I enjoy, and I’m going to find it increasingly difficult to go to traditional conferences and just sit and listen
  • I wish there was something similar in East Anglia, and I’m working up the courage to sound people out about viability – starting small 
  • Pimms cupcakes are pretty easy to make and very tasty indeed

Photo: Commscamp15-033 by W N Bishop via Flickr

CommsCamp15 – media law

The Defamation Act 2013: Complete and Unabridged

This session was led by David Banks who you can find on Twitter @DBanksy

  • Changes to libel law came in on 1 January 2014 via the Defamation Act 2013
  • 12-month time limit to start legal action for libel if it appeared in print or online – used to be no time limit for online, this has now been brought into line with print
  • libel claimants have to show that their reputation has been seriously harmed
  • if you’ve got something wrong, apologise early and remove or correct defamatory content
  • if a media or other outlet has got something wrong about you, you may be able to ask that a correction/apology is prominently displayed, The Times recently put a correction on their front page
  • apologies and corrections are legally considered to undo any harm caused. This can be significant, as was seen in the Sunday Mirror and Midland Heart Housing Association ‘Benefits Street’ case
  • if you’re issuing press releases or similar about prosecutions, stick to the facts of the case and avoid comment on the character or behaviour of the person who’s been prosecuted
  • if frontline workers are attacked they can take out a personal libel case, councils and other public sector organisations are becoming increasingly politically wary of taking action on individuals’ behalf. In 2012 The Guardian questioned if councils should be doing this 
  • newspapers and other publishers are not immediately liable for unmoderated comments under their articles, however they do become liable if they’re notified of an issue and don’t do something about it
  • the comments function on Facebook pages cannot be turned off or moderated, but comments can be hidden or deleted. Facebook would be liable for comments made if they were notified of libellous content and they didn’t take any action
  • a council cannot sue for libel, as reported by The Independent following an action brought by Derbyshire County Council against The Times and others, “because any governmental body should be open to uninhibited public criticism and to allow such actions would place an undesirable fetter on freedom of speech.”
  • What is the definition of a ‘publisher’? If you have more than two people publishing news-related content, you may be defined as a publisher and be sued for libel as outlined in the Crime and Courts Act 2013. Exceptions include public bodies and charities publishing “news-related material in connection with the carrying out of its functions.” and multi-author blogs that come under “microbusiness” definitions
  • From 3 November 2015, publishers that are not part of a charter-approved regulator, and are sued for libel or harassment, may end up bearing both their and the claimant’s costs (again, as outlined in the Crime and Courts Act 2013)
  • The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) which replaced the Press Complaints Commission post-Leveson inquiry, will not be charter-approved, but another regulator – IMPRESS – aims to be

Photo: The Defamation Act 2013: Complete and Unabridged by RobertSharp via Flickr