Pan Am backpedals on bizarre website ban

Workmen complete a sign ahead of the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, Canada, July 7, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

Good news, you’re not gonna get sued by linking to the Pan Am Games website anymore.

Wait, what?

Yes, Toronto Pan Am Games officials have backpedaled on the now widely mocked policy of getting written permission for the privilege of linking to the event’s official website.

Buried in all the legalese making up the site’s terms of use was this gem:

“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.”

Basically, doing this could’ve gotten you sued.

The TO2015 tactic invited plenty of scorn from legal commenters, media and basically anyone who uses the Internet and were under the impression that inserting a link isn’t tantamount to copyright infringement.

It’s not so unusual for big sporting events to zealously protect their trademarks and other intellectual property. The International Olympic Committee’s rules are notoriously draconian, banning non-approved media from even using the terms “Olympics” or “Olympics-related words.” But the Pan Am prohibition went a bit too far, being simultaneously heavy-handed and probably unenforceable.

See: Copyright laws and the Internet

In fairness, the stricture was likely aimed at ambush marketers, companies that haven’t paid for official sponsorships, but still imply an official connection to capitalize on Pan Am promotion. They likely wouldn’t go after your own amateur sports blog or even our humble site. 

But even if they had, it seems they wouldn’t have had much of a case.

There’s little Canadian law covering “browse-wrap” or “click-wrap” agreements, where a web user consents to honor a website’s terms of use.

In 2011, the B.C. Supreme Court decided that online terms and conditions have some weight and “to render [them] unenforceable would impair the utility and health of the Internet as creator’s products would not be capable of contractual protection.”

However, that case — Century 21 Canada Limited Partnership v. Rogers Communications Inc.pertained to one party pirating another’s photos and text for use on their own website, not something so innocuous as publishing a link.

In fact, the Pan Am prohibition would have created unintentional copyright crooks. Sites like Google would’ve been violating the terms of use by displaying Pan Am links.

Without law or logic on their side, the Pan Am people relented and dropped the whole “written permission” thing. Now, the ban only extends to embedding their content without permission, an infinitely more reasonable and enforceable rule.

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