Legal question - is this legal? Regarding Domain Name and Website content

by 12 comments
I've had a website registered and set-up in an undiscovered niche for awhile now, but I have never released it or marketed it for fear of possible copywrite infringement. I have mixed feelings, mostly because my domain name includes a sport-figures name.

my site (not actual domain):

So I am selling this FamousSportsFigure's merchandise on my site. The banner says "FamousSportFigure's". I include Youtube videos of famous events this character has been involved in. I write some articles about the guy and etc.

The merchandise I am selling is through affiliate programs (t-shirts, event tickets, video games, etc) and the products are all authentic and licensed.

Should I have any problem with this? Because afterall, I am marketing this athlete and am helping him make money by pushing his products. What do you guys think? Would you guys go ahead with the project?

#internet marketing #content #domain #legal #question #website
  • Profile picture of the author Gene Pimentel
    You're walking on thin ice. What you need to do is get permission from them. Depending on their stance, they may wish to sue for Trademark Infringement, or they may like what you're doing and grant you written permission. If they sue, you can lose everything you've earned from the site and more. Sorry for the unpleasant news, but better safe than sorry.
  • Profile picture of the author dvduval
    Seems to me that if make it clear you are not the official site, and are a fan site, it might be okay. This only my opinion of course.
  • Profile picture of the author LB
    I would be more worried about the use of their name in the domain than anything else.

    Without seeing the site I can say that generally writing about someone falls under free speech and selling licensed products is ok as well...but the domain could definitely be an issue.

    <---not a lawyer
    • Profile picture of the author Eric Engel
      No, it's not legal. And they'll probably come after you if you start getting any traffic...the sports figure I mean. He doesn't even have to trademark his name to do it.
  • Profile picture of the author Ken Leatherman
    I agree with Gene wholeheartedly. Why should you risk your future over the possibility of violating someones trade mark. Take the time to put together a well written letter requesting permission to market this particular players merchandise.

    You might want to check with the affiliate manger of the products your selling and determine if they have authorization to sales the products through their store/online/offline whatever.

    Cover your own backside.

    Your best source if it's legal or not is to contact your attorney and see what they tell you.

  • Profile picture of the author Devin T
    I wonder if it would help to contact this player's manager and talk with him about it.
  • Profile picture of the author Dan C. Rinnert
    Copyright isn't the issue. Trademark and Right of Publicity are the issues.

    Bad Decision: Doing it without permission.

    Good Decision: Getting permission first.

    Best Decision: Getting permission and working with an attorney to make sure you're covered.
  • Profile picture of the author IMChick
    You need advice from an attorney that you have hired to review this specific issue. It is a poor idea to get your legal advice from a forum, or worse, to begin without an attorney and end up in court or paying damages to the public figure after they shut down your business.

    I am an attorney, but I do not know your specific issue. I am not giving you legal advice here. Instead, I am telling you how to get the legal issues answered before you begin.

    Your issues are trademark and publicity rights, so call your local bar association and ask for someone who can handle this type of case. When you meet the attorney for a consultation, ask them what types of cases they have done in this area, and listen to their answers. Interview attorneys until you get the proper fit for your issues. You have to spend the $ to get the legal opinion, that's what it comes down to.

    In general, rights of publicity stay with the public figure absent a licensing agreement or contract to the contrary. This means you can not use the person's name or likeness at all without permission.

    The attorney you hire should be able to contact the manager, agent or management company of the personality for you. If you get permission, expect to pay for that privilege.

    An alternative to your original idea may be to use the sport name in your web address rather that the person's name, and use the person as one of a group of personalities (with permssion) in the web content. Or start a fan club for the sport. Any way you look at it, you need to get your idea on paper, and get yourself legal advice.

    Good Luck!
  • Profile picture of the author Chris Lockwood
    The reason some fan sites get away with this is that they aren't making money off the celebrity. Not that this is a legal defense, just why some of those sites are allowed to operate.

    Why tie yourself to one athlete anyway? What happens if they suddenly retire or lose popularity? Would you want to have a business based on Michael Vick right now?

    Get a more generic sports domain and sell licensed merchandise related to many athletes.
  • Profile picture of the author Frank Donovan
    Why not just set up a domain "" (or similar) and have your famoussportsfigure as a sub domain or even just an internal named page.

    That way you've got the flexibility to just add on extra sports figures at will and greatly increase the scope of your site.


    EDIT: Chris and IMChick just said something similar as I was posting...
  • Profile picture of the author jensrsa
    I busy setting up a sports fan site for my son and after all the advice, good and bad, in the current legal/trade mark threads I sent an email to the club to get all the permissions, rules etc. before I get too involved. Rather safe than sorry.


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