Published: 31 July 2000
LOOK OUT, THE WEB POLICE ARE AFTER YOU
Not long ago at www.www.red11.org an electronic communication from solicitors, acting on behalf of Manchester United PLC and Manchester United Television Limited, dropped through the cyber-letterbox. The communication informed that the site was using registered trade marks of their client which would cause confusion in the minds of the public - in other words, that www.www.red11.org may actually be considered as the official site I suppose! It just so happens that they were in the process of changing the site and removing all copyrighted material anyway, but a few thoughts crossed my mind after being informed of the communication.
Firstly it has to be said that not observing copyright cannot be condoned, which is why the site has been in the process of forming a new identity of its own and getting rid of all previous references to the official logos etc.
Apparently the solicitors acting on behalf of the plc have advised them that the simplenet site may be passing themselves off as official! I would have thought that was highly unlikely. Passing themselves off as a plc - I doubt it but, as for passing themselves off as supporters of a Football Club - they would surely have to plead guilty! And that is the aspect of all this I would take issue with. We are all supporters of Manchester United and all this site is doing is promoting the club - FOR FREE!
Apart from the use of the official crest, they complained most vehemently about the use of MUTV material on the site. All MUTV material on the site was taken with the permission of the TV station. The fact that the webmasters have had (before the solicitor's communication) an on-going relationship with the TV station, which was to the benefit of both MUTV (free advertising) and to the site's visitors via the sound archives, matters not a jot to these heavy-handed guardians of the sacred image. But, the crackdown on the relationship with MUTV is surely in no-ones interest as the site is now in the process of deleting all of their MUTV sound and consequently MUTV will no longer have any free advertising.
The communication made several demands (bullyboy tactics employed to scare the unwitting). But at the very end they gave the usual all rights reserved notice. Apparently the contents of the communication may only have been the opinions of the individual who transmitted it and not the opinion of the organisation! So what was the point of sending it in the first place?
Maybe it was all a joke? If it was, perhaps they should check that they were not acting to the detriment of their clients. And, as for MUFC and the words Manchester United being copyright - Manchester (the city) United (all-for-one) Fan (I am one) Culture (we are the fans and this is our culture). And how is anyone supposed to refer to the club if it is not by the use of the words Manchester United? Perhaps they would prefer us to call them the team of ex-railway workers from Manchester who play in red shirts? It's ironic they complained about the use of the letters MUFC though, as I thought they had dropped the FC from the club logo - so why should they be mithering about that all of a sudden?
Unfortunately, this is likely to be the thin end of the wedge - other clubs are doing exactly the same thing. They just can't stand anyone being better at something than they purport to be, and that's the truth. Isn't it time the clubs started to respect their supporters? Let's face it, without us they would not be in business, and all these independent sites are doing is offering a free service to anyone who is interested - oh - and an enormous amount of free advertising for (in this case) Manchester United. Funny they should be complaining about that.
They are doing their best to monopolise a game of football and the football clubs which (some of them) may belong financially to the corporate, but which also belong to their supporters. I'd be very interested to know what any of the top US lawyers would make of it.
Sites like www.www.red11.org are the competition and it seems they don't like it. Well, tough shite.
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