Guernsey is set to beat all the world’s other jurisdictions in overhauling its intellectual property regime to better protect the image rights of high-profile individuals like sports and media stars. For the first part of this feature, click here.
Rights into perpetuity
Elaine Gray, counsel at Carey Olsen, touches on another way in which the new law promises to boost business among Guernsey’s financial and legal professions: succession planning. A key point here is that under Guernsey law image rights will have the potential to exist in perpetuity and so stars will be able to bequeath the licensing for their image rights (or indeed parts of them). Interestingly, the law will allow the posthumous registration of image rights (although this will only go back 100 years). In fact, Jason Romer, managing partner at law firm Collas Crill, said he has already received inquiries from the relatives of a recently-deceased celebrity. Here, the question of who owns the rights (the deceased’s estate, spouse or children) “will be a particularly difficult question,” he continued. In such cases “lots of due diligence will have to be performed to ensure that there is a clear chain of title,” added Gray.
Contentious cases like this aside, Guernsey’s existing intellectual capital means it is well-placed to serve all the business which will arise from the Image Rights Ordinance – however complex the structure required. “Once you have legal clarity on the ownership of image rights, you can assign the rights to a company which then trades it…you can enter into contracts, you can get financing,” said Gray, highlighting some of the ways the benefits from image rights could be exploited. As such, the IR Ordinance represents a “perfect partnership with the rest of the financial services industry; it sits well with them and it’s the perfect bolt-on,” she continued.
Who will be “GIR1”?
The IR Ordinance has “clear advantages for ultra high net worth celebrities,” said Gray, “Guernsey will give them an advantage they cannot obtain anywhere else in the world.” There is therefore much anticipation building over who the very first individual to register an image in the island’s registry will be. On this front, one man who will certainly find himself being pumped for information will be John Ogier, registrar at the Intellectual Property Office (part of Guernsey Registry) and a key driver of the initiative from a governmental perspective.
Guernsey expects the first registrations to take place at the end of this year or the beginning of 2013, but since the island is central to the affairs of scores of sports, media and entertainment stars, it’s difficult to speculate who GIR1 will be. One thing is for certain, however, the identity of this individual will likely become public knowledge very quickly as the Guernsey image rights register will be publicly searchable online. This kind of transparency is in fact representative of Guernsey’s whole approach to the legislation – the island is keen to actively engage with HM Revenue & Customs on how it will function in practice, for instance. “We want it to be robust… we want to demonstrate to HMRC that this is a proper product,” said Gray.