Technology, media and telecommunications

What is TMT and what do TMT lawyers do?

TMT deals with the wide-ranging legal considerations associated with all types of communication, from mobile phones to the internet to print publications.

TMT is a fast-moving and ever-changing area of law. The perpetual introduction and development of new technologies requires those working with TMT clients to be forward-thinking and adaptable. TMT lawyers will be required to keep abreast of developments and be alert to the potential (often unprecedented) issues surrounding technological platforms.

E-commerce issues, data protection and privacy and fraud prevention all fall within the remit of TMT lawyers. Lawyers in this area of specialism will often be found advising clients that are setting up websites and online payment systems on issues such as data security and the protection of website content. Advising on the licensing of software and hardware also makes up a large part of a TMT workload.

Outsourcing – the process of passing the responsibility for carrying out a particular activity to a third party – is also a stalwart of the TMT sector. The type of functions which are typically outsourced by businesses include IT, accounting and HR. TMT lawyers may be asked to research the company to which an activity is being outsourced by completing due diligence checks and reviewing agreements between the two businesses.

Often, functions will be outsourced to different countries where the cost of labour is lower. TMT lawyers may therefore need to research and become well-versed in the laws and regulations of the jurisdiction in question.

What makes a good TMT lawyer?

TMT lawyers need to have knowledge of and/or be interested in the media and technology sector as a whole.

A TMT lawyer will need strong communication and negotiation skills. Adaptability and flexibility are also key, as lawyers will be expected to come up with solutions to unprecedented legal issues.

Attention to detail is crucial as the bulk of the work of a TMT lawyer will revolve around contracts and agreements. Good knowledge of commercial and corporate law is therefore essential.

Creative thinkers will also flourish as TMT requires a lot of ‘thinking outside the box’

Trends in TMT law 2018/19

According to research by The Legal 500, recent key technology trends include the development of artificial intelligence, machine learning, uses for block chain and an uptick in the use of cloud computing services.

Mobile providers have been undergoing significant transformation projects in response to the increased pressures for a reliable and fast service. This is a result of rapidly developing technologies (including a focus on the internet of things and autonomous vehicles), an increased use of cloud services and a substantial growth in data volumes.

On the contentious front, the decision in Unwired Planet v Huawei – relating to licensing issues surrounding standard non-essential patents in this sector and the obligation to license those patents on Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms – gained a lot of attention.

Fintech has been providing London’s lawyers with an opportunity to be at the vanguard of innovation, much of which is continuing to shape the financial sector. In fact, rather than compete with disruptive start-ups, several of the major financial institutions have instead been buying them out.

Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) have also been making the headlines. A few law firms have successfully handled ICOs, approaching them as securities transactions. Distributed ledger technology (DLT), which has broader uses than just cryptocurrency, is well-known to fintech lawyers; while payments work, insurtech and regtech have also been keeping practices busy.

The omnipresence of technology can also be seen in the life sciences sector, with more and more advances being made in the area of healthcare technology. 3D printing is set to become a key game-changer, where the bio printing of prosthetics, tissues and implants could potentially revolutionise the entire industry. Digital health is also a major trend, as healthcare providers are increasingly turning towards their ‘Big Data’ to analyse and discover patterns that may lead to further developments in this field. And of course, the industry was also faced with the rather unenviable task of making its data fully compliant with GDPR regulations.

In the advertising and marketing pace, ad-tech maintains a dominant position, with a lot of legal work now falling within the ‘new media’ advertising area. Digital media advertising and social media content placing remains at the forefront of the industry. Although the Advertising Standard Authority (ASA) continues to heavily regulate conduct standards in this area, the fast-moving digital market is thus far outpacing the ASA on matters such as gender stereotyping and regulation of age-appropriate content. Law firms have been employing more commercially reactive and innovative tactics to exploit regulatory gaps within the digital media advertising space and influencer marketing.

In the world of sport, player-agent disputes and “Rule K” arbitration (arbitration proceeding from a particular clause in the Football Association’s rulebook) have been the source of much contentious work in football. Anti-doping – in cycling and athletics in particular has also become a specialism for many lawyers. Governance and data have been increasingly active areas for sports practices; esports are another area of growth.