February 17, 2006
We were contacted today by the U.S. Olympic Committee about two issues:
1. The domain name hotolympians.com is infringing on federal trademarks. When I registered the domain name, I did some research on olympic trademarks and came to understand (via this document and others) that "olympic" was trademarked and "olympians" was not. I was wrong. And thus we will continue publishing under a new domain name which will be up shortly.
2. According to USOC's representative I spoke with on the phone, the main issue for their call was our featuring athletes in conjunction with selling advertising space, making us a commercial site and not a journalistic endeavor.
From an email sent by USOC:
Rule 41 specifically forbids Olympic athletes to appear in any advertisement, even if it is just a mention of the athlete’s name or image, during the 17-day period of the Olympic Games unless the athlete has obtained a written waiver of the rule. As a general rule, the granting of waivers is limited to entities that are current Olympic sponsors. To this date, there is no Rule 41 waiver on file that would enable this domain to feature Olympic athletes to promote the abovementioned web sites, services or products. Therefore, utilizing any advertisement in connection with Olympic athletes that are scheduled to compete during the Olympic Games could jeopardize her eligibility to participate in the Games.
When asked why a local newspaper could publish a feature of an athlete right next to an advertisement, I was told that we weren't a news operation. I was told that hotolympians.com jeapordized American athlete's right to participate in the games:
Please contact me immediately to discuss what corrective measures can be taken to disable this web site and ensure that the eligibility to participate in the Winter Olympic Games of current U.S. Olympic athletes such as Seth Wescott , Jeremy Bloom , Cassie and Jamie Johnson , Courtny Zablocki , Apolo Ohno , Gretchen Bleiler , Bode Miller , Allison Baver , as well as Olympic athletes from other countries is not compromised.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter in order to keep our country's most accomplished athletes eligible for participation in the Olympic Games.
I was unable to convince their representative that these athletes had no connection with my website.
This strikes at the same issues many bloggers have dealt with in not having the same rights as journalists. I disagree with USOC's position, but it's a battle for another day. I don't have the time, nor the resources, to fight the big lawyers.
In the meantime, we're working on re-launching the site at a new domain name without advertisements. Please check back here later today or tomorrow for the re-launch. We'll still pick out the hot athletes from Torino, we'll just be, in the words of USOC representative, "a fan site."
If you have any questions, please contact me directly at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your patience,