Go To The Olympics? Take Photos? Put Them On Flickr? Await Olympic Committee Legal Threat Letter

from the and-the-gold-medal-in-promotional-idiocracy-goes-to... dept

And we've got yet another example of insane attempts by the Olympics to extend copyright and trademark law well beyond its stated intentions (which, tragically, some governments have been known to accept in order to get the Olympics on their home turf). This time, it involves the International Olympic Committee sending a cease-and-desist to a guy who posted the photos he took at the Beijing Olympics on Flickr. Seriously.

It's hard to understand what they're complaining about specifically. They mention that he violated the "terms and conditions" on the back of the ticket (which are often not enforceable, anyway) in "licensing pictures." Inquistr suggests the problem is that the guy, Richard Giles, put his own photos (on which he owns the copyright) on Flickr under a Creative Commons license. It's difficult to see what sort of leg the IOC has to stand on here (though, it may involve jurisdiction in a few different countries). The guy took photos himself -- so it's his copyright. Putting them under a CC license is then his decision. The trademark claims are laughable. At best, the IOC might be able to claim breach of contract in violating the "back of the ticket" agreement -- but even that seems like a stretch, and it's difficult to see what sort of "harm" the IOC could suggest these photos caused.

It's difficult to understand what the IOC thinks its accomplishing here. This was someone spreading the word (and view) of his Olympic attendance to his friends and many others online. You would think that would be seen as good and free advertising rather than as something for which the legal dogs should be unleashed. What sort of organization lets loose its lawyers on a fan posting photos showing off his cool experience attending an event? Honestly, I can't fathom what anyone at the IOC could possibly be thinking here.

Filed Under: olympics, photos, trademark

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  1. icon
    Chris Rhodes (profile), 9 Oct 2009 @ 11:49am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "It's an important thing to learn, you may take a picture and own the rights to that picture, but you don't always have license to the things that appear in the picture. Thus, locations, events, performers, etc - you may not have the right to distribute those images in public without their permission."

    Have anything to back that up? Because I think you're very wrong.

    Trademark is based on preventing people from (A) Passing their goods off as someone else's and (B) implying endorsement by a particular person, corporation, or brand that has not actually provided an endorsement.

    It is absolutely not meant to be used to prevent anyone from talking about or referencing a particular trademarked item (i.e. the "You can't talk bad about my business because the name of my business is trademarked and I don't give you permission to use it." garbage we see businesses trying to get away with today).

    If I post a picture I took on the internet and there happens to be a McDonald's in the background, McDonalds's can't demand that I take it down (well, they can demand it, but that doesn't change the fact that they'll lose in court) unless they can prove that I'm using their trademark in a fraudulent manner.

    If companies want to prevent people from taking and distributing pictures of their events, they can put it in their Terms of Service or in some other contract language, but that only applies to people who have agreed to said contract (e.g. a ticket purchaser), and it isn't a copyright violation if those terms are broken, it's a breach of contract.

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