With the 3 percent, world trade worth the sports business occupies in the world, mega sums are generated from the sale of sports broadcasting rights, especially in major events, and the commercialization of the sports image rights of well-known athletes and sports teams.
Image rights are access to the services of the personality for the purpose of filming, television, broadcasting, audio recording, motion pictures, video, and electronic pictures, for promotional or commercial purposes including but without limitation the personality’s actual or simulated likeness, voice, photograph, performances, personal characteristics, and other personal identification.
Image rights are also referred to as personality rights or publicity rights in different parts of the world.
The right to one’s own image is the ability to decide when, how and by whom our physically recognizable features (image, voice, and name) can be captured, reproduced, or published.
A. OWNERSHIP OF THE RIGHT TO ONE’S OWN IMAGE
The holder of the image rights is the individual whose image is reproduced. Legal entities can hold the image rights of third parties indirectly.
As regards the image rights of minors, the legal guardian will have to authorize the use of the images of the minor.
B. DISPUTES IN THE USE OF IMAGE RIGHTS
The participation of sportspersons in different sporting events can lead to numerous disputes as a result of the overlap in the use of image rights by various organizers.
When players are called up by the national team, the respective federations hold the sportsperson’s image rights and can, in turn, make contracts with enterprises that sponsor the national team. Such enterprises may not be the same as the sponsors of the club or sports entity to which the sportsperson belongs, or even the sportsperson’s sponsors individually.
C. CONTENT OF IMAGE RIGHTS LICENSES
According to Circular No 1171/2008 of FIFA, the club and the player have to agree on how the player’s image rights are exploited.
The individual player may exploit his rights by himself (if not conflicting with club’s sponsors/partners) whilst the club may exploit the player’s image rights as part of a group and/or the whole squad.
D. IMAGE RIGHTS’ PROTECTION IN CAMEROON
How can the image right of an athlete, professional football player and celebrity be protected?
Sports figures can leverage their image and reputation to earn huge amounts of money through endorsement deals, sponsorship deals, appearance deals, and merchandise deals. With their personality being an asset, there is a need to protect their image against abusive use. The various avenues under which such figures can protect their image are as follows;
- Trade Mark Protection: Trademark registration can provide practical means under which the image of a sports figure can be protected in Cameroon. Trademarks are registered symbols that indicate the origin of goods and services. So it can be used to identify, protect and exploit the personal image, brand, and likeness of sports figures and celebrities in Cameroon.
- Copyright Protection: Copyright protects original literary, dramatic, and artistic works as well as certain other media content. Its scope to protect image rights is quite limited as there is no intrinsic copyright in a face or a name.
- Privacy Laws: these laws have been successfully used to protect commercial image rights. This will mostly be enforceable between sports persons, celebrities, and those who have entered into exclusive arrangements with them regarding the publication of their confidential or private information.
- Data Protection: If the law on data protection imposes a broad obligation on those who collect and process information pertaining to persons, then the image rights of sports figures and celebrities can be protected through this legal medium. Sports persons and celebrities may rely on this medium to prevent the unauthorized publication of photographs or films bearing their image.
- Advertising Regulations: where advertising regulations contain specific provisions dealing with the use of images of individuals, then the abuse of the provisions will amount to the athlete or sports figure bringing an action for abusive use of his image.
- Defamation Suit: If the name and image of an individual are used without permission in a manner not befitting the status of the individual, that person can bring a defamation suit against the unauthorized use of his image.