A few weeks ago, I reported that ContestedFooty.com had received a cease & desist letter from the AFL over its use of original images depicting AFL players in the context of reporting and providing commentary on AFL news and events.
We were able to put the administrators of ContestedFooty.com in touch with a local solicitor who was willing to donate the time to examine the AFL's claims and demands. I am now happy to report that ContestedFooty.com has advised the AFL that they will continue to use images relating to Australian Rules Football in their independent coverage of the sport.
This is a very good outcome from our perspective - ContestedFooty provide valuable independent reporting and commentary on a sport close to the hearts of many Australians, and their ability to do so would be significantly hampered if they were required to seek and agree to licensing terms from the AFL. We are certainly happy that ContestedFooty have been able to examine the AFL's claims and ensure that they can continue to operate without infringing copyright, trademark, or passing off laws.
However, this case shows the difficulty inherent in the complexity of Australian law, and the potential for abuse by rights holders. We are extremely disappointed that the AFL sought to suppress news and commentary in the way that it did by issuing legal threats against the operators of an independent blog. We believe that this is an example of over-reaching that the system allows, primarily due to a lack of clarity as to what exactly users of trademarks and copyright material may do without a licence. The unfortunate effect of this lack of clarity is that independent publishers are forced with a tough decision - to comply with the demands without further examination, or to seek costly legal advice. Because the cost of legal advice for a blogger is often prohibitive, we are very concerned that rights holders are often able to make overly broad demands. Luckily, in this case, the bloggers were fortunate enough to be able to obtain pro bono advice from an experienced solicitor - but not all such stories end so well.
I would like to reiterate our support for the team at ContestedFooty, and wish them all the best in continuing to provide high quality independent coverage of Australian Rules Football.