Athletes in the European Union - Towards Improved Protection of Image Rights

University essay from Lunds universitet/Juridiska institutionen

Abstract: The topic of this thesis is the sports law attached to the image rights and intellectual property rights (IPR). The focus is more on the individual athletes when it comes to the commercial use of their image. In this work I study how the individual athletes’ right to their image might possibly be limited. My question layout includes the reflection on how the athletes’ opportunities to use or to commercialise their own image are limited by the agreement between the athletes and the national federations. Correspondingly, I elaborate whether the limitative clauses established by the sports federations are justifiable. While studying the athlete contracts and the use of image, the focus shifted towards another essential legal problem which the individual athletes are faced during their sport careers: an unauthorized use of the athletes’ image in the marketing field. The regulatory notion of the image right is strongly national, however, this thesis widen the legislative scope to the transnational level. This is done by examination of the possibilities for the improved protection of athletes’ image under the European Union (EU) law, and further at the international level. One way to strengthen the protection is to apply the EU’s harmonised IPR acquis more extensively. On the other hand, the establishment of an international agreement would bring somewhat improved protection. Ultimately, I note that the need for the common rules at the transnational level in this subject area is essential. In the EU, the development in sports law in its entirety is enabled by the Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force in 2009, together with the other principles of EU law. The optimal way to employ the development in sports law and the image rights is to establish the harmonised rules. The possibilities to implement such harmonised rules at the EU and international level are examined by this thesis.

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