Bootnotes

Pan Am Games: Link to our website without permission and we'll sue

Toronto2015.org lawyers appear confused by this internet thingy

Updated The organisers of the Pan American Games in Toronto, which start this week, require that people seek formal permission to link to its website at toronto2015.org.

Under the website's terms of use, amid piles of incomprehensible legalese seemingly designed to hide from the fact that social media exists, it is decreed that no one is allowed to use one of those hyperlink thingies to connect to the website unless they first get approval. It reads:

Links to this Site are not permitted except with the written consent of TO2015™. If you wish to link to the Site, you must submit a written request to TO2015™ to do so. Requests for written consent can be sent to branduse@toronto2015.org. TO2015™ reserves the right to withhold its consent to link, such right to be exercised in its sole and unfettered discretion.

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that the $2bn sports event – effectively a mini-Olympics – also appears to have trademarked the term "TO2015." Which makes about as much sense.

Incredibly, this is not a misreading of the terms, and it doesn't appear to have been a mistake either. Instead, it's about the increasingly insane approach that intellectual property lawyers are taking to sponsors – and non-sponsors – of sporting events.

Alongside such gems as forcing people to put tape over their own computers if a computer company is a sponsor, and stopping people for drinking anything that isn't a sponsor drink (if there is a drinks sponsor), now it seems the Pan Am Games lawyers have decided they need to prevent the internet from entering the hallowed sponsor world.

Strictly speaking, anyone who links to the website or even anyone who uses the games' own hashtag of #TO2015 is violating its terms, and could be sued. Although not a court in the land would actually enforce it.

It's also worth pointing out that the website has yet to add a robots.txt file or other technical method to stop search engines from indexing and linking to the site, so they are effectively forcing Google et al to unwittingly and automatically break its own rules.

But then, we were already assuming that the people who wrote the terms of use are not exactly up with the times.

Just to be on the safe side however, we wrote to the organisers asking for their permission to link to them for this article. We politely emailed:

Dear Pan Am Games lawyers,

Welcome to the internet.

We would like to seek permission to link to your website for a story we are writing about how ludicrous it is that you are requesting people to ask permission to link to your site.

It is only fair that we warn you the article is likely to be critical of yourselves and contain a good degree of mockery.

We should also note that we will link to your site regardless of your response. But all the same, it's nice to have permission.

And before you ask: there's no need to ask us for permission to link to the story when it's up. It happens all the time.

Good luck!

The response?

Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently: branduse@toronto2015.org. Technical details of permanent failure…

Let's hope the organisers are better at running games than they are servers. ®

Updated to add at 1935 UTC, 1235 PDT on Sunday, July 12

The toronto2015.org masterminds have pulled a U-turn: they have updated the website's terms and conditions following the publication of our story on Saturday to excise the demand for written permission to link to the site. This is a screenshot of the original text...

...and this is the new text:

The use of or embedding of content from this Site is not permitted except with the written consent of TO2015™. Requests for written consent can be sent to brandapprovals@toronto2015.org. TO2015™ reserves the right to withhold such consent, such right to be exercised in its sole and unfettered discretion.

Oh, did we just ruin someone's weekend?

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