Digital content producers may need to brace themselves for a big disruption after Britain’s most senior judge raised the prospect of a comprehensive overhaul of UK privacy laws.
Addressing the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong, Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger described the technology-driven speed with which digital content can now be recorded, globally distributed and manipulated as “astonishing.” It was time, he argued, to re-think the law on privacy and on communications more generally. He said:
“It undermines the rule of law if laws are unenforceable. There is no doubt that these technological developments give rise to enormous challenges for people involved in the law and people involved in the media.”
Unlike many EU countries, the UK doesn’t have a single privacy statute but a cobweb of different “judge made” laws (case law). The Human Rights Act is frequently used in the UK to prevent material from being published because of its emphasis on the “right to private and family life.”
Lord Neuberger’s remarks follow a number of high profile cases involving photographs of celebrities being published online against their wishes, even though British media may have been barred by law from publishing them.
Media lawyer Mark Stephens said that a new privacy law was now a virtual certainty: “When the president of the Supreme Court calls for a new law, most governments listen,” he said.
But he went on to argue that such legislation was “very controversial”, he said: “There is always a debate about whether scallywags and scoundrels use privacy laws to conceal their wrongdoing.”
Content writing and video production could be about to get a good deal more fraught.