TNT's Tulisa sex vid privacy payout shows the importance of checking your emails

We can learn one important lesson from the £42,500 damages award against TNT Multimedia after its publication of a photo that breached a court injunction: get the basics right.

The image, of singer Tulisa, was taken from a raunchy video that appeared on nottulisa.com

The singer got an injunction High Court judge Mr Justice Tugendhadt, banning publication.

Other media removed it from their websites immediately, but TNT did not respond for 24 hours.

During that time the webpage was viewed between 8000 – 9000 times.

TNT knew the law and certainly did not recklessly ignore the injunction.

It was simpler than that – a mistake any of us could make. They didn’t check all their email accounts.

Tulisa’s solicitors, Lewis Silkin, emailed the injunction to the media minutes after it was granted on Tuesday, March 19, 2012.

They sent it to two different TNT email addresses: webmaster@ and postmaster@

And they re-sent it twice after there was no response.

But because of website developments, the two email accounts were no longer used. The emails went unnoticed during that all-important 24 hours.

As a result, Tulisa’s solicitors treated the 8,000-9000 views as individual breaches of privacy law, copyright law and the Data Protection Act. TNT had to settle.

I often find that newspapers, magazines or websites get into legal difficulties because of administrative errors like this – not through lack of legal knowledge.

One regional daily paper published the address of a teenager covered by a section 39 order because of a misunderstanding between the night newsdesk team and the day shift.

Another website continued to publish a photograph, long after a suspect was arrested, because the web editor went on holiday. He didn’t have a proper deputy because of staff shortages, so no-one took proper responsibility while he was away.

A weekly local paper stone sub spotted a libel and removed it before it was published – but never thought of telling the circulation department to remove it from the newsagents billboards.

And we hear, all too often, of innocent people being defamed because of incorrect photo archiving.

I could go on.

Human error is understandable in busy, under-staffed newsrooms.

But I find most of it can be eliminated with proper procedures.

This is why I now start my media law training sessions 30-minutes on Safe Office Procedures. It covers setting up complaints systems, dealing with emails and letters, monitoring archives, delegating responsibilities during staff absence, and telling work experience trainees the basics. I also do audits to check the systems work.

All tedious stuff. But worth it in the long run.

Cleland Thom is a consultant and trainer in media law

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