Protecting Sports Images Rights: The Rise and Fall of Super-Injunctions?

Article excerpt

Sports celebrities, like David Beckham, often earn more money off the field of play than on it, through the commercialisation of their image rights by multi-national companies, who are prepared to pay mega sums for their products and services, which they market around the world, to be associated with and endorsed by such celebrities. These image rights/endorsement contracts are very valuable commercially to both parties, not least the sports celebrities concerned, who will do everything in their power to safeguard and protect them, especially when their images are threatened.

Unfortunately, footballers often 'play away' - a euphemism for engaging in extra-marital affairs - and wish to keep their dalliance secret and confidential and hide it from the world's media and thereby preserve their reputation and its saleability.

This has led in the last twelve months or so to the granting by the English Courts of a number of so-called 'super-injunctions' - it is impossible to say how many because of the legal nature of them - preventing the media reporting on their affairs and also - perhaps more importantly - the fact that such injunctions have actually been obtained by the sports celebrities concerned. These injunctions have been pejoratively described as 'gagging orders' by the media and the supporters of a free press and freedom of expression in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Breach of them constitutes 'contempt of court' which is punishable by fines and/or imprisonment! In fact, the UK Attorney General has been asked on 22 May, 2011 to bring a prosecution against a journalist who has named another footballer who had obtained a 'super-injunction' protecting his identity.

Under the UK Human Rights Act of 1998, which came into effect in October of 2000, the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights of 1950 are directly applicable in English Law. This means that sports celebrities can invoke the right to privacy enshrined in article 8 of the Convention. …