You are here

New season, new image rights?

Will the example of Scottish goalkeeper Allan McGregor lead to an increase in the number of footballers protecting their image rights through Guernsey's image rights law and register, wonders Fiona Le Poidevin

15 August 2014

Add comment

Will the example of Scottish goalkeeper Allan McGregor lead to an increase in the number of footballers protecting their image rights through Guernsey's image rights law and register, wonders Fiona Le Poidevin

Following from a highly entertaining World Cup in Brazil, the new English Premier League football season starts this coming weekend. It will usher in another ten months of ecstasy and agony, heroes and villains - it will create lasting memories and images.

One player is already a step ahead of the rest in terms of protecting his image from unauthorised use by third parties, enabling him to realise the full commercial value of his image. Hull City FC and Scottish international goalkeeper Allan McGregor has become the first Premier League player to take advantage of the world-first Guernsey image rights law and register.

McGregor was a product of the Rangers FC youth development system and had several successful seasons at the club before moving to Besiktas in Turkey. He returned to the British Isles in the summer of 2013 with Hull City FC and helped them reach the FA Cup Final against Arsenal in May.

His image rights application was made to the Guernsey Registry in June by Romanillos & Cook Image Rights Limited (R & C) - the same firm responsible for the image rights registration of Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini last year. Jose Luis Romanillos, managing director of R & C, said McGregor's image rights application provided him with a number of benefits and opportunities, namely protection, evidence, value, flexibility and promotion.

"Guernsey's image rights legislation provides an additional layer of protection of one's image and 'brand', against abuse or infringement by a third party. The image rights registration can be used initially as a threat to infringers, but ultimately a court order can be sought in Guernsey, which in turn could be applied in the jurisdiction of the infringement. The image rights registration is concrete evidence of the individual's image rights, confirming their existence and potential worth," said Mr Romanillos.

"The registration creates a 'tangible' asset that can be valued, licensed, monetised and even sold. Unlike with its 'elder brother' Trademark, additional images can be bolted into the same image right registration at any point in the future. The register is also a public record and can be used as a marketing and promotional tool."

This follows Guernsey Football Club (GFC) - where the inaugural president was Guernsey born Matthew Le Tissier, the former Southampton and England player and now Sky Sports pundit - making the first application by a football club to register its corporate personality under Guernsey's image rights legislation, which is the first law in the world specifically written to allow 'personality' to become an asset, in the form of intellectual property.

As a result of GFC registering its personality in March this year, any unique and distinctive attributes of the club personality may receive statutory protection against the deliberate infringement and unauthorised economic exploitation of those images by others. Aspects of the club's personality that are classified as images include such elements as its insignia, club strip, catch phrases, slogans, merchandise and - most importantly - images of the club's players wearing the GFC strip.

GFC's application has been made through image rights registration specialists Icondia. Keith Laker, chief executive of Icondia said: "We pointed out the well-documented difficulties that Arsenal FC had more than a decade ago, in attempting to control the sale of unauthorised memorabilia. The point was not lost on GFC which, despite its size, is extremely forward-thinking on all matters concerning image."

As well as the football community, boxers, tennis players, models and musicians have been among the other registrations since the inception of the law and register in December 2012. However, it will be football where we are focusing again when we participate at the Soccerex convention in Manchester at the start of September.

Our key message will be that individuals and corporates can hold their image rights as part of a wider wealth management structure - and it can all be done in Guernsey through the use of private banking services; an aircraft registry; company, trust, foundation and family limited partnership vehicles; and newly introduced Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs). This provides an ideal environment for managing private client wealth and assets - including image rights.

The new football season will undoubtedly evoke new images but the question is whether anyone else will join McGregor, and get ahead of the game.

Fiona Le Poidevin is the chief executive of Guernsey Finance

She writes a regular blog about Guernsey for Private Client Adviser