Twice Olympic champion, World Champion and 2001 World Cup winner Russian skier Julia Chepalova intends to sue Adidas for a $1 million
The reason for the suit is as follows. In 1998, Julia Chepalova became the Olympic Champion in Nagano. In the same year, Adidas issued a great number of advertising posters and cards in which the Russian skier stands in a suit and glasses marked with the Adidas brand name. This is obvious advertising for which the athlete must be paid.
But representatives of the sports company seem to be extremely surprised; they insist that the posters and cards were made on legal terms and it makes no sense to accuse them of cheating. Adidas says it has concluded a contract with the Russian Ski Federation according to which skiers of the Russian team wear identical uniform with the Adidas trademark at the international events. And the company says everything is OK and no claims can be made.
But representatives of Julia Chepalova say that wearing of the identical Adidas uniform differs from direct advertising of the company producing the uniform. In cases of this sort of advertising companies should conclude individual contracts with athletes. Nothing of this kind was done with respect to Russian skier Chepalova. Since 1998, Adidas has been using the image of Chepalova. During these five years, the skier has concluded several individual contracts with different producers, but each time the sum mentioned in the contracts was lower than expected. That was because it was believed that Julia Chepalova was the face of Adidas. Indeed, this idea could be gathered from the fact that the company produced lots of images of the skier that were somehow connected with the three stripes brand of the company.
In the suit that Julia Chepalova intends to register the skier emphasizes that she has suffered serious losses while concluding contracts with other companies, the moral damage and the unpaid use of her photo in advertising.
Influential people doubt the suit will be a success. Juridical issues may still become a problem for Chepalova, even though she is the Queen of Skiing.
At the same time, it is not ruled out that the whole story about suing Adidas is just an advertising campaign organized by the agents of the skier. Indeed, Julia became a mother not long ago. When she made a decision to come back to sport, she participated in several skiing events but won no metals. This advertising action may help her remain afloat.
What is more, skiers don't conclude direct contracts with sponsors, that is why Chepalova doesn't have this contract as well. This is true that Adidas has an agreement with the Federation and mutual cooperation between the parties has been maintained for 30 years. According to the agreement, the Federation organizes advertising and information campaigns for the sponsors. So, in this case it is not clear if it is Chepalova who is advertising Adidas or vice versa. Finally, posters and cards that representatives of Chepalova mention are the official product done at the world events but not paparazzi stuff. In other words, this is the official shooting to which athletes agreed when they confirmed their participation in the official events. That is why to try and represent the whole of the case as criminal won't work.
Nobody will predict now what will be the outcome of the scandal, if it will be an open war or Chepalova and Adidas will manage to reach a compromise. In all conflict of this kind each party is right in its own way. The world sports history knows some cases when athletes managed to make producers compensate for illegal usage of their images. The recent instance of this kind is the goal-keeper of the German Federative Republic football team Oliver Kahn who sued Electronic Arts for $800,000 and received the money. The company used a photo of the goal keeper for the cover of its new computer game. This situation resembles that of which Julia Chepalova's agents say. The electronics company also had contracts with FIFA and the German Football Association. But Oliver Kahn was persistent enough and insisted that the company should have concluded a personal agreement with him in addition to the official contracts with FIFA and the Association. The goal keeper hired experienced lawyers who worked so wonderfully that the court admitted that the claims laid by Oliver Kahn were just.
In the English Premier League each player has a personal contract for his image which saves them from illegal usage of their photos on different kinds of products.
One may say that it is easier in Great Britain when the laws are perfect and do work. That nothing of this kind is currently possible in this country. Isn't it time to make the dream a reality? The case of skier Julia Chepalova may become a precedent. If the athlete succeeds with her lawsuit then many other athletes will certainly apply to court as well to seek compensations for illegal use of their images.
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