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The European football union UEFA is closely monitoring sales of its paraphernalia with original symbols of the European championship to ensure that its copyright is not infringed in the countries hosting EURO 2012. Why? Aside from obvious proprietary reasons, the stuff brings in the highest profits.
While singular cases of the production of pirated goods with symbols of EURO 2012 (T-shirts, cups, bags, etc.) have been registered in Ukraine, infringements of the UEFA copyright are not that widespread. Last year, the State Customs Service registered only seven attempts of importing goods with illegal symbols of EURO 2012 into Ukraine.
Up to now, the case with the owner of the Prostoprint company, Denys Oleynykov, who has been charged with illegal printing of symbols of the championship on T-shirts, remains the only major incident of prosecuting violators of UEFA copyright laws in Ukraine. Oleynykov, however, believes the case was fabricated and connects it to the production of other T-shirts with the inscription “Thank you residents of Donbas...”
The Epicenter K company is an example of civilized relations with UEFA. Having become the national sponsor of the championship, the company received a license to produce official paraphernalia for EURO 2012 as a part of its sponsorship package. Warner Bros Consumer Goods, which regulates the commercial use of symbols of the championship, granted the right of usage of original symbols. The Ukrainian owner of the license launched a collection of over 500 types of items, from tourist tents to towels. Moreover, it was specified that the categories of items that Epicenter K works with are exclusive and will not be copied by other license holders.
Mechanisms exist to protect against fakes, such as holographic signs with numbers, etc. According to UEFA requirements, licensed products with the EURO 2012 logo were made on special orders by select contractors.
In cases of illegal use of EURO 2012 symbols, Ukrainian entrepreneurs could face severe fines and punishment. The Cabinet has proposed to parliament to increase the level of fines and prison terms for infringement of UEFA copyright and partners of the championship.
The bill envisages setting a maximum fine of UAH 85,000 for the illegal use of UEFA logos, while the current maximum punishment specified in the Code of Administrative Violations is a fine of UAH 3,400. For illegal copying of recordings of football matches and their distribution on the Internet, users and owners of resources can be sentenced up to 6 years in prison (currently 5 years). For illegal use of the wording “EURO 2012” in the domain name, placement of ads on websites with symbols of the championship or streaming the matches online the site owners face confiscation of their domain and servers in addition to the fine. In addition to this, lawmakers proposed that broadcasters of the tournament in public places without UEFA permission on screens larger than 3 meters diagonal be sentenced to two years in prison. At the moment, there is no liability for such a crime. Also, driver’s licenses can be revoked for three months for illegal application of EURO 2012 emblems on the vehicles of their owners or for the transportation of counterfeit EURO 2012 goods.
The official partners of EURO 2012, who have paid huge sums for sponsor packages, welcome stricter liability for such infractions. “In my opinion, if the government sets fines for the violation of rules, it will lower the distribution of counterfeit goods by 90%,” says Executive Director of the Intertop chain, an official vendor of souvenirs for the championship in Ukraine, Serhiy Badritdinov.
Some lawyers, however, believe the new copyright norms not be widely applied, as control over observance of copyright in Ukraine has not yet been fully organized. “Most likely such a bill will be drafted to simply intimidate violators,” says lawyer Artem Afyan. “Stricter liability for such violations will only give a new impetus to such violations and boost corruption.”
In addition, lawyers are concerned that liability for UEFA copyright infringement will be harsher than for violations of similar rights of third parties. EURO 2012 organizers in Ukraine explained that adoption of such legal acts was a UEFA requirement during the selection of the host countries of the championship, and that Ukraine’s highest ranking officials provided the necessary guarantees.Printable version