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Media liability insurance

What is media liability insurance? It's worth considering if you work in the media industry.

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Media liability insurance is a form of errors and omissions insurance. Media liability insurance protects those who distribute information against claims for physical injuries or financial loss caused by erroneous or negligent publication of material. Also known as communications liability insurance or multi-media liability insurance, media liability insurance provides cover from exposures such as defamation, invasion of privacy, factual errors and copyright or trademark infringements.

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The emergence of new media, which was made possible by the Internet, has seen a sharp rise in the number and severity media liability claims. Media liability insurance is now becoming a necessity for a wide range of information distributors, aside from traditional publishers and broadcasters.

Who needs media liability insurance?

Traditionally, media liability insurance covered information distributors such as book, magazine and newspaper publishers, commercial printers, television and radio broadcasters, authors, film producers and advertising agencies. Today, anyone who distributes information to the public via websites, blogs, emails and desktop publishing, faces the same exposures as traditional publishers. Professionals who benefit from a media liability insurance policy include:

  • Brand managers
  • Celebrities who make personal appearances
  • Graphic designers
  • Freelance journalists
  • Marketing and promotional companies
  • Online and interactive marketing companies
  • Public relations firms
  • Public speakers
  • Website developers
  • Electronic publishers
  • Cable and satellite broadcasters
  • Web hosters
  • Software developers.
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What is the role of media liability insurance?

The first media liability policy was issued by US insurer, Employers Reinsurance Corporation, in response to a growing realisation that those in the media required special protections against the risks inherent in the creation and dissemination of information. Media liability insurance is designed to fill the gaps not covered by traditional liability insurance, such as professional indemnity insurance. It can now be purchased as an adjunct to such insurances and addresses the specific exposures faced by media professionals. One example of these new exposures is those faced by consultants who design, build and host websites for their clients. They not only have traditional liability for duties owed to their clients, but now face new risks such as slander or libel, media and advertising liability and security liability for everything that happens on and to their website, from credit card fraud and misuse of email to third parties illegally accessing the site.

What does media liability insurance cover?

While media liability insurance can be tailored to the insured’s specific circumstances, typical cover in a media liability policy might include cover for liabilities such as: Piano

  • Defamation – arising from the communication of false information that damages a third party’s reputation or business. This can include defamation in print or by broadcast (libel) and defamation through oral communication (slander).
  • Personal disparagement – a publication or broadcast which causes damage to a third party’s community or business activities.
  • Product defamation – demeaning the performance or value of a product.
  • Invasion or infringement of one’s right to privacy or publicity – this might include intrusion, public disclosure of private information, unwarranted or wrongful publicity or using a person’s name or likeness for profit.

Typical exclusions in a media liability policy might include:

  • normal business activities pertaining to employment
  • breach of contract
  • patent infringements
  • claims made by certain regulatory authorities.

The costs usually covered under a media liability policy include the legal costs in defending a claim, damages awarded to the claimant and in some cases, cover for punitive damages as well.

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Frequently asked questions you've asked about media liability insurance

Q. Why do I need media liability insurance?

A. Because if a claim is made against you for disseminating erroneous or defamatory information, you will have to defend that claim in court. If you are uninsured, your defence will be at your own expense.

Q. What is a ‘claim’?

A. A claim is a demand or assertion of a legal right made against you. It can be in the form of a lawsuit seeking financial compensation or injunctive relief or a written claim demanding a retraction or correction of information.

Q. What is the difference between an ‘occurrence’ and ‘claims-made’ policy?

A. An occurrence policy covers losses that were incurred during the policy period, while a claims-made policy covers claims that were filed during the policy period.

Q. What is the difference between a costs-inclusive and costs-exclusive excess?

A. A costs-inclusive excess means that you must pay the excess (amount to be paid by you when a claim is made) towards the legal costs of defending a claim, while a costs-exclusive excess lets you pay the excess towards the settlement of the claim, which means you have more time to pay.

Q. How do I apply for media liability insurance?

A. Media liability insurance is often offered as an adjunct to professional indemnity insurance, so you can ask your insurer about this additional cover at the time of applying. Alternatively, you can compare policies online and often apply online as well.

Q. What is the retroactive date?

A. The retroactive date is the date from which you are covered by your media liability policy.

Q. What protection does media liability insurance provide?

A. It protects your business and personal assets if a claim of disseminating erroneous or defamatory information is brought against you, allowing you to continue running your business.

Q. When should I notify my insurer of a circumstance that I think might result in a claim?

A. As soon as possible, or else the claim might be denied due to a ‘known circumstance’.

Q. What is a known circumstance?

A. A circumstance where you were aware or should have been aware, given your professional position, that a claim could result.

Q. What does negligence mean?

A. Negligence is when someone suffers a loss that is caused by your failure to fulfil your duty of care towards that person.

Q. What is the limit of liability?

A. The limit of liability is the aggregate limit (maximum amount that will be paid) for all claims that are made against you during the insurance period.

Q. Why do I have to fill out a proposal form?

A. Because it will provide the insurer with information that they need to know about you and your business in order to calculate your premium. This information can include the type and size of your business and the kinds of risks you are typically exposed to.

Make an enquiry about media liability insurance

Those in the media face a broad range of potential legal exposures. As communication technology evolves, those exposures will change and grow along with it. While media liability insurance was originally designed for traditional media entities such as publishers and broadcasters, it is now becoming a must-have for a wide range of other information providers who want to protect themselves in an environment where the risk of litigation lies around every new corner.

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