Q&A with Prof. Dr. Dieter Frey, Senior Partner, at FREY Rechtsanwälte
Q: What is your legal background (including education, early career etc)?
DF: I studied law at the universities of Bonn and Lausanne as well as at the College of Europe in Bruges. These cities have a special charm and I am honoured to have had the chance to study in different legal and cultural backgrounds. After having passed my first state examination in 1993, I did a master’s degree in European Community Law at the College of Europe. For the second state examination I moved back to Bonn and worked as an academic assistant for Prof. Dr. Everling, a former judge at the European Court of Justice. In 1998, after completing my doctorate on European Media Law, I started my career as a lawyer with White & Case in Brussels. Then I was employed as the Senior Vice President Business and Legal Affairs for the content-syndicator Cocomore AG in Frankfurt. In 2003, I decided it was time to create my own law firm and, since then, I have been setting up, and expanding, FREY Rechtsanwälte.
Q: Could you say a little about your role at FREY Rechtsanwälte - is there any such thing as 'typical day'?
DF: There is not really such thing as a ‘typical day’ at FREY Rechtsanwälte. The exciting thing as a media lawyer is that you are confronted with new legal questions in different factual situations every day that deal with the effects of digitization. Affected industries can differ greatly: our clients include traditional media companies such as cable operators and TV stations as well as football clubs and eSports organizations.
Q: Was Media Law an area that interested you from early on in your studies? How did Media Law evolve into an area of expertise for you?
DF: Media Law is an area that has always fascinated me. My PHD in European Media Law allowed me to focus more closely on this field of law and I became passionate about it. The area is characterized by steady development. As a lawyer active in the field you simply can’t pause - you always have to increase and develop your legal expertise. In combination with extensive economic and at least a basic technical understanding, a specialized knowledge of Media Law enables to provide legal advice in a large variety of industries, not only in the typical media business. My specific interest and expertise helped me when I worked as a competition lawyer in Brussels as well as Practitioner and University Lecturer in media and sports law back in Germany.
Q: You advise in areas such as addressable TV and eSports. Why do you regard these field as so important?
DF: Media is constantly changing and growing. The spread of an adequate Internet bandwidth has fundamentally changed and changes our usage habits. The use of streaming services such as Netflix or Twitch is widespread and classical linear TV is losing importance and reach. What kind of changes are coming up next is not yet completely foreseeable. Addressable TV, which is a way of targeting TV ads to different households, could revitalize linear offers and open up new revenue sources. From a legal point of view, a number of questions arise in this field, for example whether the cable retransmission regime can be applied to such services.
The sector of eSports is highly discussed in sports, media and also, increasingly, in politics. The economic growth of eSports is absolutely amazing. From a legal point of view, many questions in eSports are at the crossroad between sports, media and copyright law. The development is very dynamic but it requires framework and a certain standardization with the relationship between publishers, promoters, teams and players. The area is also very exciting for sponsors and the media, but here too the legal structures from classical sport cannot be transferred one-to-one. Also, the acknowledgment of eSports as a ‘sports discipline’, as discussed in many countries, is important for its further development.
Q: How creative do you perceive your work to be?
DF: The legal areas FREY Rechtsanwälte are dealing with are constantly changing. Technical and economic changes are important challenges and require a lot of creativity and the ability to evaluate upcoming legal developments fast. These skills are absolutely essential to find the best solutions for our clients.
Q: What are the positive and negative aspects of your job?
DF: For me the best aspect in my job is the constant technological development. It is exciting to experience the technical and economic changes and to manage them legally. Working together with my ambitious team I am continuously impressed with what is possible to achieve. However, this specialized and intense work is time-consuming and this would be the only aspect I could think of when it comes to less positive aspects of my job. But since it intellectually rewards a lot, I am more than happy to commit a certain expenditure of time.
Q: What do you see for your future career?
DF: After having worked in a major law firm and in the industry, the establishment of our boutique firm FREY Rechtsanwälte is exciting and challenging. My focus now is on further development and to extend our business by maintaining our focus on legal services in the areas of IT, copyright, media, sports, telecommunications and European law. Our aim is to grow our law firm and to gain a foothold throughout Europe.
Q: Congratulations to FREY Rechtsanwälte for being awarded the JUVE Award for the ‘Law Firm of the Year for Media’ at the JUVE Awards 2019. How does it feel to win such an award?
DF: Thank you very much. It was indeed a moment of appreciation and a confidence boost for our law firm. Looking back to the very first developments of FREY Rechtsanwälte I can see how far we have come and I was thrilled to receive an award which confirms the achievement of having built up a boutique law firm. Moreover, the award represents all our employees hard work and we see it as a motivation to continue to provide legal services on the highest level.