Media Law #5 Confidentiality

Well I managed to arrive to the lecture today half an hour late, as there was a six car pileup on the motorway, this is when commuting has its disadvantages. I didn't mind too much though, I got to sit in Sophie's new mini and laugh at people in their cars, one women was even painting her nails! Although it had already gone 10am, me and Sophie still carried on. The traffic suddenly cleared and we managed to get to Uni. Luckily todays lecture went on longer than usual, we seemed to grasp all the laws around confidentiality.

In America there are no libel laws and common law privilege is growing. This seems to be the case in the UK as well. Rather suing for libel victims of defamation can go down the privacy route. In libel the newspapers and magazines can usually prove it however with privacy laws in place the work of a Journalist becomes much more difficult.

In the Ryan Giggs case for example he chose to sue for privacy and not libel as there was a witness that could evidence and say that he slept. But privacy laws in the UK, section 8 of the Human Rights Act, states you must respect the rights for private and family life and you must not share a person’s private life to the public. Nobody has the right to know what you do in your private life unless they give you this right.
With Confidentiality there are three areas of concern.

  1. Commercial Secrets are vital for business to business situations. Common law confidentiality
  2. State secrets mainly affect investigative journalism with links to the military, under section 1.
  3. Privacy, section 8 of the Human Rights Act. Mainly a matter in celeb/tabloid journalism.

Each person has a right to expect confidentiality; a person is in breach of confidence if they pass on secret information which has all of these:

  • Quality of confidence, it can't just be tittle tattle. For certain situations it is obvious that information is confidential for example where a secret recipe is used however where the information is not too different from information that is already in the public domain some disputes can arise.
  • It was provided in circumstances imposing obligation, without a contract term imposing confidentiality there are a number of circumstances that can give rise to an obligation of confidence, doctor and a patient, solicitor and a client etc.
  • No permission to pass on the information.
  • If damage/detriment is caused.
Celebrity magazines that use paparazzi photos of celebs' private life usually have a deal with their agency, and pay the celebrity for them. This tops up the celebrities’ publicity even if it is negative. This is how paps get away with taking photos of celebs in their private life; they have been given permission to do so.

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