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Britney Spears libel lawyer Paul Tweed to leave firm to set up new private practice

After almost 40 years with Johnsons Solicitors Paul Tweed is setting up his own firm

LEADING libel lawyer Paul Tweed, is setting up his own practice after 39 years with Johnsons Solicitors in Belfast to focus on north African, Middle Eastern, US clients and taking on social media giants.

The new firm, called 'Tweed', will have greater name recognition for international clients and focus on Mr Tweed's specialism of defamation.

However, the Co Down-born solicitor told the Irish News that the firm will retain links with Johnsons, sharing office space in Dublin and London, but opening new premises in Belfast.

"I will be concentrating more on the Middle East and the US and social networking sites who are increasingly subject to Irish defamation and data protection laws," Mr Tweed said.

Ireland is home to headquarters of almost all the internet giants, with almost all non US data "held" in Dublin.

Mr Tweed, who has represented celebrities including Liam Neeson, Britney Spears and Harrison Ford, said defamation work in that region is "rapidly expanding" - last year he acted for Ismail Omar Guelleh, president of Djibouti, in a case against Facebook in Dublin and high-profile Palestinian Mohammed Dahlan is a client.

"The last six months have seen dramatic changes in the way media lawyers have to operate. Defamation against print media is much less relevant now. Social networking sites are the biggest publishers. Facebook today provides more than 70 per cent of news to the 17-23 demographic in the US and doesn't pay for any of it."

Meanwhile, he said, the global defamation market has opened up in unexpected ways.

"A lot of north African and Middle Eastern publishers are operating out of London and the amount of litigation has been quite sudden. I have been quite taken aback by the pace. The world has become smaller dramatically in a short period of time."

He said the conflict in Syria and dispute between Qatar and four surrounding Gulf states have generated a number of cases.

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