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Did you know that the London Olympics have their own special ‘right’ under intellectual property law?

 There’s a quietly brewing disgust at the way the London 2012 Olympics are enforcing their rights under trade mark and copyright law. It’s  not just the granny who knitted Olympic dolls, and infringing shop windows, it’s happening online too. For those who have followed the ACTA saga, it could be a  telling precedent.   In the latest twist, an  Irish parody of the appallingly bad Olympic commentary was taken off-line under orders from the International Olympic Committee. It follows investigations into online traders, who include none other than the royal sister-in-law Pippa Middleton.

  It turns out that the British Parliament passed into law a special, new ‘right’ just for the London Olympics, with associated powers of enforcement. This is the London Olympic Association Right (LOAR). It was passed by Parliament under the London Olympic Games and Paralympics Games Act 2006. According to the law firm Pannone, the LOAR is owned by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG).

 This right appears to give the Olympic organisers access to 300 special  copyright police  who have the power   to ask traders to change their window displays, and even the name of their business.

It would seem to be the LOAR that caused the investigation into Pippa Middleton’s family e-commerce site, which  forms the  online presence of their  Party Pieces business.  The site sells products for childrens’ parties.

 The  reason  Party Pieces  was investigated under the LOAR is that it  put up a special promotional range of products for the Olympics, such as paper-chains in the colours of the Olympic rings.  

However, it seems that the high profile of person under investigation embarassed LOCOG. Pippa Middleton and Party Pieces have been cleared of infringement but asked to amend some aspects of their online offer.

Separately, the International olympic Committee (IOC)  is monitoring the Internet for footage of the games.  A parody    of the commentary, dubbed ‘Irish boats’,  was created using footage of the sailing. In fact, it only used footage of the boats getting into position for a race, not a race itself.

  The Irish boats parody was  uploaded onto the Vimeo site, and promptly taken down by the International Olympic Committee.

The site said:

Vimeo has removed or disabled access to the following material as a result of a third-party notification by International Olympic Committee claiming that this material is infringing: Boats.

 The clip is clearly poking fun at the Olympic commentary, which is some cases has been very bad and uninformed. I personally went to the Eventing dressage at Greenwich Park. Rather like sailing, eventing is a specialist sport.  I can say that the commentary did not extend much beyond ‘here is [insert name and country of horse and rider]; or ‘here are a lot of people in orange T-shirts, they must be here to support the Dutch rider’.  It really was down at that level, and the Irish boats video is reflective of that.

 The Irish boats video has  been re-posted on YouTube  with a disclaimer the  1976 Copyright Act, which is a US law, and it relies on the US  ‘fair use’ exception:  

 “Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.”

 My serious point here is that these are two examples of how corporate power can be abused under the enforcing copyright and intellectual property rights online.

Having rejected ACTA, that was also about corporate power, we should be very wary of any changes to EU law that might permit or legitimate this kind of behaviour any further.


**The irony of it all is that the Olympic organisers are themselves the subject of a copyright dispute.

   This is an original article from You may re-publish it under a Creative Commons licence, but you should cite my name and provide a link back to  Media and Academics – please cite as Monica Horten,  Olympic net police line up Pippa Middleton and Irish boats,, 9 August    2012 . Commercial users - please contact me.



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Copyright Enforcement Enigma launch, March 2012

In 2012, I presented my PhD research in the European Parliament.

Don't miss Iptegrity!  RSS/ Bookmark is the website of Dr Monica Horten. She is a policy analyst specialising in Internet governance & European policy, including platform accountability. She is a published author & Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science. She served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee on  Internet Freedom. She has worked on CoE, EU and UNDP funded projects in eastern Europe and the Caucasus. In a voluntary capacity, she has led UK citizen delegations to the European Parliament. She was shortlisted for The Guardian Open Internet Poll 2012.

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