Melbourne Law School - Theses

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    Unauthorised commercial exploitation of athletes
    Buckley, Eugénie ( 1996)
    This thesis explores the extent to which the law recognises a legally enforceable right to the 'celebrity status' of an athlete. An analysis of the sporting industry demonstrates that due to the centrality of sport to Australian culture, the personalities of celebrity athletes are of economic value to potential sponsors and thus to themselves. In Australia, due to an absence of protection based on general privacy, property and equitable concepts, the athlete has to rely on piecemeal and incidental protection under principles of defamation, passing off, breaches of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth) and intellectual property law. While recent developments highlight the willingness of courts to assist in unauthorised appropriation cases, it is submitted that the focus of the available remedies render them inadequate to provide complete and comprehensive protection. The United States of America, Canada and the major European countries provide specific and additional protection to personality. Not only is Australia out of step with these countries, but is also arguably in breach of international conventions which recognise a right to privacy. That the community disapproves of illegitimate exploitations is evidenced through voluntary codes of practice prohibiting the practice. Accordingly, legal reform is necessary to provide complete protection against the unauthorised commercial exploitation of personality. Arguments supporting the introduction of a new remedy include philosophical grounds, economic fairness and compatibility with international law. Furthermore, there exists judicial and academic recognition of the need for reform. Three options are provided as to the form the new remedy should take. The preferred solution is the introduction of a new tort dealing with the appropriation of personality.