US long-jump legend Bob Beaman was unimpressed to find his picture in a ‘London 2012′ promotional brochure. He complained to Lord Coe that it made him look as though he was backing London’s bid when he was actually sitting on the board of the body pushing New York’s candidature. Does he have a claim in English law?
Bob Beaman and the London Olympics 2012 bid
As part of its huge publicity barrage in support of London's bid to stage the 2012 Olympics, a brochure was distributed several weeks ago featuring pictures of famous Olympic athletes including US long-jump legend Bob Beaman, Michael Johnson and Carl Lewis.
Beaman was not impressed, particularly no doubt as he is a member of the board of the rival New York bid to stage the 2012 event.
Beaman wrote to London's campaign leader Sir Sebastian Coe demanding a public apology and calling for the offending literature to be withdrawn.
The 1968 gold medal winner in Mexico City said the use of his image and the images of other US athletes created the misleading impression that they supported the London bid.
Sir Seb replied to Beaman saying the images were used "merely to demonstrate iconic Olympic moments and were from the official archive, forming part of a montage of photographs celebrating unforgettable memories from Olympic history." He also denied that the use associated Beaman and the others named with the London bid.
Why this matters:
It is not clear whether Beaman has as yet taken this matter any further or whether the brochure has been distributed outside the UK.
Here in the UK, Mr Beaman's ability to obtain the court's backing for his demand for a withdrawal of the brochure would depend upon whether he could mount a successful case of "passing off."
To be able to do this, he would have to show first of all that substantial business had been conducted in the UK using his likeness so that there was goodwill in that business in this jurisdiction.
He would then have to show that the London brochure's use of that likeness amounted to a misrepresentation. The misrepresentation argued might be, as already presaged in the athlete's letter, that Beaman is supporting the London bid.
Thirdly and lastly, he would have to be able to show that his business would suffer damage in the UK as a result of the unauthorised use.
Particularly on the aspects of UK business, goodwill and damage, Mr Beaman's case does not look that strong, but the UK has already come a cropper in using Olympic-related images of individuals. In April 2005 the London Olympic bid team was criticised for using pictures of IOC members inspecting London's facilities as part of its presentation.