Olympics: Thou Shalt Not Tweet (Without Paying Up)

from the the-gold-medal-in-stupidity-goes-to... dept

Every time you think that the Olympics can't get more ridiculous with its attempts to abuse trademark law to control its name, they go one step further into ridiculousness. Following the threat to goggle maker UVEX for mentioning skiier and gold medalist Lindsey Vonn on its website, the US Olympic Committee is threatening Red Bull and Verizon for daring to tweet about the Olympics without first paying up. I'm not kidding. Both companies showed some basic Olympic spirit with some simple tweets, supporting some winning athletes. Here's Red Bull's "offending" twitter message:
We're rooting for you @LindseyVonn @Shaun_White @GregBretzz and @Drahlves in the 2010 Winter #Olympics!
And Verizon's:
Who are the REAL American Idols? Shaun White, Lindsey Vaughn & Shani Davis draw more viewers than American Idol
Seriously. And the US Olympics straight-faced response?
"When people partake in this kind of ambush behavior, it hurts American athletes."
Yes. Two simple tweets from companies cheering on successful Olympians are considered "ambush behavior" that "hurts American athletes." Apparently, these threats from the Olympics worked on at least Red Bull who pulled its Twitter message supporting the athletes.

This goes beyond the typical abuse of trademark law to ridiculous levels. While Verizon hasn't yet pulled its post, I would hope that it will stand up for basic free speech rights that say the Olympics has no right to tell it what it can and cannot tweet in support of the games.

Filed Under: free speech, olympics, trademark
Companies: red bull, usoc, verizon


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  1. icon
    Don DeBold (profile), 23 Feb 2010 @ 12:49pm

    Re: In defense of the IOC

    I am not a Verizon fan, but frankly I don't see anything wrong with companies like Verizon or Red Bull cheering on athletes in their tweets without paying the USOC. So what if this is in some sense "advertisement". These are public figures and the Olympics is an international event. They folks at Verizon who who tweeted their encouragement might be true fans and sharing their excitement, and yeah, it might also be good PR for the company. This is not the same as including an athlete's photo in an print ad where there is an implied endorsement of the product by the athlete. I'm willing to bet that if you showed those tweets to Lindsey Vaughn or the other athletes that their reaction would be "Cool!", and not "Show me the money".

    I wonder how much the USOC spends on lawyers and others who spend their time watching Twitter and Facebook and every other place someone may mention the Olympics so they can quickly shoot off their "shut up or pay up" emails. Maybe the money spent on the lawyers would be better spent on the athletes.

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