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We crowd around to watch as U.S. athletes shine at the 2016 Rio Olympics, cheering them on and enjoying the opportunity to see their incredible athletic feats. With the excitement and awareness of seeing this year’s Olympic logo on our screens and in stores, it’s easy to feel as if the Olympics belong to us and that we can embrace the event as if it were our own. But the truth is that the Olympics are not public property. It is a private entity, its own brand. And in a recent statement that solidified the hard and fast rules of brand copyright and digital rights, it became clear that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is prepared to defend its intellectual property.
The Olympic Brand
Inc.’s recent article, How Posting On Social Media About the Olympics Could Get You Sued, broke down what digital rights truly mean for a brand that is as globally pervasive as the Olympics. Only businesses that are sponsoring the Games themselves – not even companies that support individual athletes – are permitted to post about the Olympics in any way. This ban includes the use of images and logos, but also prohibits any individuals or businesses from creating Olympic-themed posts or congratulating an athlete on their performance.
Businesses that have tried to show their support for athletes in the Games have already been contacted by the Olympic Committee and told to remove their posts associated with the Games. Even pictures that include the Rio logo in the background are against the rules.
The Committee points out that unless utilized by an organization that spreads the news, “social media platforms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) serve to promote the company/brand; to raise the brand’s profile and public opinion about the company/organization; and/or to increase sales, membership or donations.” Under this umbrella, they view any posts about the Olympics as trying to leverage their brand for the business’ own gain, a commercial usage that they won’t allow.
It’s easy to assume that when information is out there, it is available for widespread use. But just as you would give credit to the photographer who took the picture – or purchase the rights yourself – it’s critical that attribution be given to the owner of any digital media. Should said photographer refuse to give you permission to use their photo, then you have no choice but to take it down. While it may seem extreme,, the Olympics is essentially refusing to allow any non-partners use of their brand. And they have that right.
Protecting Your Brand
The IOC’s statement has brought issues related to branding and digital rights management to the forefront, but there is nothing new about these limitations on using another company’s images or logo. People have always recognized the Olympics by its logo, now the company is reminding us that it is also a business, a strategic and hard-working brand, rather than a miraculous event that pops up as if by magic every two years. Your brand, too, has the right to control what your logo, name, and associated images mean. Doing so allows you to determine how your work will be used, as well as avoid losing any income that is associated with the promotion of your brand and company information.
With the prevalence of infographics, memes, blogs, quotes, and other easily circulated material, it can be easy to forget that every piece of content had a creator. It’s a good opportunity to remind ourselves that we are not entitled to the use of any other business’ assets, even when it seems to be in the public domain.
Maybe you’re a startup that has been growing too fast to take the time to establish specific branding protocols. Maybe you’re a successful corporation whose leaders are well aware of branding guidelines, but frequent new recruits aren’t receiving sufficient training to know how to make decisions regarding fair use. Or maybe your company has many different projects going on, but your marketing team isn’t in touch with your legal team. Every graphic designer, content creator and social media manager should be savvy about branding, and be able to protect your company’s brand while refraining from infringing on another’s.
As you begin to develop policies that outline permitted usage of your branded materials and protect your created materials and associated information, here are some beginning guidelines to get you started.
The first and best way to enhance your own brand without worrying about infringement is by creating your own content. Choose how your brand will be portrayed by leveraging your own branded content marketing, which will also increase your visibility for search engines.
Specifically outline your company’s unspoken strategies in regards to social media posting and engagement with other brands, and make it a clear protocol for employees to follow.
A policy is only as good as the number of employees who are aware of and paying attention to it. Once you establish your policies and protocols, thoroughly communicate these strategies and their implications to your teams, and follow up should any questions or inconsistencies arise.
It all comes down to internal communications. With teams working side-by-side to create marketing materials, it’s easy for one person to innocently make the wrong move simply because they didn’t know the rules.
Working with a content marketing or branding expert in an advisory capacity can help your company create and manage content so that you don’t have to worry about infringing on another brand or not accurately defending your own.
The more guidelines you have in place the better informed your teams will be on how best to protect your brand without infringing on the rights of other companies. Need help building out your policies and creating an effective content strategy that is tailored to your individual business? At ARTÉMIA Communications, we know the ins and outs of protecting your brand while also enhancing it. Connect with us if you want to learn more about how to preserve your brand and its digital assets.
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