Olympic Stadium Photos (aka Red Heat)

When I was a trainee I was once asked if a client could use “copyright” to stop a newspaper printing photos of its stadium development (the answer was no).

So I was amused that the International Olympic Commitee has sent a “legal letter” to a photographer asking him to remove photos of the Beijing Water Cube from Flickr.

Interestingly the letter doesn’t mention copyright (although a lot of the blog commentators do start banging on about copyright).  Under UK law the photographer owns the copyright in a photo he/she takes (no matter what the subject matter is). So on that analysis the IOC have no copyright in the photo taken by the photographer.

There is a type of quasi intellectual property right called moral rights which gives a very limited protection to a person featured in a a commissioned photo such as a wedding photo.  More relevantly for this case there is also a moral right that (if asserted) means the architect of a building has to be indentified every time a photo of that building is displayed.

Rather than fight on copyright (good decision) the IOC letter claims that posting the photo is a breach of contract.

“What contract?” I hear you cry. The contract the IOC is referring to is the contract formed when you buy a ticket for an Olympic event. That contract has terms that prohibit the taking of photos at the event. However, it is not clear that the photographer bought a ticket, and the photos are exterior shots. So that looks like a dud line of attack.

Finally the IOC letter says its trade mark rights are being infringed. However, under UK law at least, I don’t think the photographer is infringing the trade marks because he is not using the Olympic trade mark as a “badge of origin” or similar.

I have noticed an increase in these “Olympic committee being over zealous in protecting its trade mark” stories recently.  I blame the lawyers!

From a personal point of view I hope they don’t have a pop at Little Chef’s Olympic breakfast.


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