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Is LOCOG restricting free speech?

Terms of use 2012 Olympics | London 2012.

There is some kerfuffle about the London Organising Committee of the Olympic games restricting free speech by its linking policy. Some are asking how, by linking to the site, you could be said to be using it. Therefore they argue, even by the site's own terms and conditions, there is no contract to enforce.

I think they can afford better lawyers than that boys. The contract is formed (as are so many others) by electronic means. Thus;

BY USING THE SITE, YOU INDICATE YOUR AGREEMENT TO BE LEGALLY BOUND BY THESE TERMS OF USE, by our Privacy Policy, our guidelines on Use of the Games' Marks, the terms and conditions governing use of the London 2012 eTendering service (“eTendering User Agreement”) and any other notices, guidelines and rules published by us on the Site from time to time ... [etc.]

If this doesn't work, internet commerce doesn't work either. I only qualify that by saying it's clearly unreasonable for the conditions to bind you until you have had chance to read them (whether you take that chance or not). Once you have read them and found them unacceptable (or visited without checking them) you should leave the site immediately and not return. No court will hold you to them if you do that.

I do have quibbles about specifics of the Links Policy (below) however;

a. Links to the Site. You may create your own link to the Site, provided that your link is in a text-only format. You may not use any link to the Site as a method of creating an unauthorised association between an organisation, business, goods or services and London 2012, and agree that no such link shall portray us or any other official London 2012 organisations ... in a false, misleading, derogatory or otherwise objectionable manner. The use of our logo or any other Olympic or London 2012 Mark(s) as a link to the Site is not permitted....

It's fair enough (pace the anti-capitalists who irrationally object to companies getting what they paid for, rather than blaming the IOC, LOCOG and others for selling out in the first place) to restrict commercial uses and the display of their logos and brands. It's pointless as by and large they are protected by general law, but it's hardly something to complain about.

I am also not sure they even need to restrict portraying them in a "false or misleading manner" as that's covered by defamation law. I doubt they will get more than token damages (and no costs) for claims on grounds less serious than those for defamation, which would make enforcement a waste of time and money. I guess they are just helpfully warning that they will get shirty-at-law if you do. Thanks, guys.

What about the "derogatory or otherwise objectionable" bit, however? Maybe the protesters have a point there? My dictionary says "derogatory" means "showing a critical or disrespectful attitude." I am highly critical and utterly disrespectful of the IOC (which has a long history of corruption) and LOCOG (which is incompetent when it comes to PR for a much-loved sporting event and has overrun its budget shamefully). If I link to their site when pointing that out, do they really think an English jury will award them damages?

If I get a cease and desist letter in response to this post, I will offer to pay £1 into court on account of their damages. If they are rash enough to sue, the judge (having read my eminently reasonable critique) will (at worst) smile and award them 99p, meaning they get no costs. He might well also get shirty with them for wasting his time. A shirty High Court judge is not a sight they want to see, trust me.

Their lawyers probably told them they were pushing their luck with "derogatory" and "objectionable" (defined as "arousing distaste or opposition; unpleasant or offensive"). "Objectionable" is too subjective to be sensibly used like this. A different someone somewhere will object to almost everything. There are some sad individuals on the Left who object to almost anything. Boo hoo. Don't forget in civil cases you have to prove loss, not just breach.

I suspect these elements of the policy are pointless and therefore simply another example of LOCOG's tone deaf PR ability to make the inherently lovable despicable. Ergo they have failed to restrict your freedom of speech in any meaningful way. Relax. Chill. Worry rather about the costs of the games you will be paying for years to come.

DISCLAIMER: This is my personal opinion and is not offered as legal advice. Consult your own lawyer before taking on a well-funded organisation with a track record (if not - yet- of running a successful Olympics) of prompt threats of litigation .

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