Media law provides a framework for the resolution of legal issues related to film, television, digital media, advertising, publishing, marketing and other areas of the media. This is a far-reaching branch of the law, and graduates who choose to specialise in it can expect to find themselves working with a range of tasks, from copyright disputes and defamation cases to the negotiation of licences and talent agreements. Media lawyers generally act for employers, such as film studios and investors. They may also represent individuals, such as actors, musicians and copyright holders.
In 2016, the Federal Government attempted unsuccessfully to pass a law – the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment – that would have changed the restrictions currently governing media ownership and broadcasting rights. As it stands, the dominant Act in broadcast media remains the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, which covers issues related to content regulation and media ownership.
Australian media is further regulated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, which, since 2005, has overseen the implementation of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, the Telecommunications Act 1997, the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999, and the Radio Communications Act 1992, as well as 22 other related pieces of legislation.
In addition to the federal laws and statutory authorities, codes of conduct and industry standards are influential within media law. Some of the major issues in contemporary media law are piracy, internet censorship, privacy, media ownership, and defamation.
Much of the work you do as a graduate in media law will be fast-paced, with the licensing you acquire today, for example, used to play a certain song in an advertising campaign next week. Your clients will tend to be creative and dynamic people who travel frequently. Developing strong relationships with them will be a key part of your job, and this can be extremely satisfying.
The explosion of digital media has created a new market for law graduates who are interested in media and technology. It also means that the range of potential careers paths for media lawyers has increased dramatically, with more in-house jobs than ever before. As a result, graduate experiences will vary greatly, depending on whether you work for a law firm, a radio station, a digital content agency, or a different media outlet. Generally, of course, they will include a period of close supervision as you master all the relevant laws and processes.
As a media lawyer, you will most likely find yourself working for a regulatory authority, in-house for a media organisation, or as a consultant in a law firm. The variety of media formats and global reach of the media industry mean that you can build a career in this area that matches your specific interests, and which can easily take you to many locations abroad.
The scale of the media industry also means that media law practitioners can generally weather economic fluctuations on an individual basis. Nevertheless, clients often seek to save money during quiet periods – for example, by spending less on traditional advertising campaigns, with the result that they are less likely to require legal support.
Learn more about working in media law.