Mark's Musings

A miscellany of thoughts and opinions from an unimportant small town politician and bit-part web developer

Olympic linking lunacy

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In another of my occasional series of articles about organisations who mistakenly think they can control how you link to them on the web, there’s a great example on the London 2012 website. Here’s the relevant paragraph:

Links to the Site. You may create your own link to the Site, provided that your link is in a text-only format. You may not use any link to the Site as a method of creating an unauthorised association between an organisation, business, goods or services and London 2012, and agree that no such link shall portray us or any other official London 2012 organisations (or our or their activities, products or services) in a false, misleading, derogatory or otherwise objectionable manner. The use of our logo or any other Olympic or London 2012 Mark(s) as a link to the Site is not permitted.

What that means is that the link I’ve already created is OK, provided I don’t use this article to point out how stupid these rules are. Oops. But, even if I wasn’t being derogatory about them, these restrictions create some ludicrous situations. Here are some examples:

A website about the Olympics – OK, because it’s a text link that doesn’t use the official Marks.

London 2012 – Not OK, because it uses one of the official Marks.

London 2012 – OK, because it’s not a link, and my use of the official Marks is permitted under the exception for journalism and editorial content.

A bunch of plonkers – not OK, because it’s derogatory.

OK, because I’m using the image in an editorial context and it isn’t a link.

Not OK, because I’m using the image as a link.

Not OK, because it’s an image link even though it isn’t one of the official Marks.

I haven’t broken the rule about not using a link to imply some kind of association or endorsement, because – unlike every other restriction – that is actually enforceable by law. But to try and stop people making links in the non-permitted forms that I’ve done in this article is daft. It’s unenforceable, and all it does is demonstrate ignorance.

If it was just ignorance, though, it wouldn’t be such a big thing. Lots of websites have unenforceable clauses like this in their terms and conditions, usually because they’ve simply copied and pasted them from elsewhere on the web or they were written by people who don’t really understand the Internet and can’t afford to pay someone who does. But when LOCOG does it, it looks like just another example of the control freakery at the heart of the London Olympics.

Quite apart from the fact that we’ve actually got laws telling us when we can and can’t use ordinary, English words such as “games” and well-known names such as “London”, it’s led to situations where local traders have been shut out of Olympic Flame events because the official sponsors don’t want them there and a ban on food vendors other than McDonalds selling chips. That one was partially retracted for staff catering in the face of mass complaints, but it still applies to spectators.

I like sport. I like the Olympics, and I’m massively proud that they’re being held in my country this year. And I’m pleased that the organisers have managed to get things like the stadium and other venues ready on time and on budget, unlike many other Olympic hosts. But the willingness of LOCOG to let commercial interests take precedence over the convenience and needs of athletes, staff, volunteers and spectators leaves an uneasy taste in my mouth.

Anyway, I’ll be doing my own little bit to protest against the rampant commercialism and Olympian authoritarianism. While the games are on, I won’t use my Visa card, I won’t eat at McDonalds and I won’t drink Coca Cola or Heineken. Instead, I’ll watch the TV coverage with a glass of real English beer in my hand and eat food from English providers. And when I need to spend money with plastic, I’ll use my Mastercard. Oh, and I’m happily ignoring nonsense like a ban on derogatory links to a bunch of control freaks who are giving the London Olympics a bad name.