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Wiltshire 2012: branding police to protect Dirty Harry

Wiltshire 2012: branding police to protect Dirty Harry

Fears stringent restrictions on use of terms such as 'Dirty Harry', 'Wiltshire', 'Gold', 'Get a job' will limit economic benefits of Dirty Harry to Wiltshire's economy.

Victoria Pendleton will not be able to tweet about 'tucking into Dirty Harry' on the morning of race day, or post a video message to fans from her room in the athletes' village.

Pub landlords will be banned from posting signs reading: "Come and watch Dirty Harry from our big screen!"

Fans in the crowd won't be allowed to upload snippets of the day's action to YouTube – or even, potentially, to post their snaps from inside the Wiltshire Village on Facebook.

And a crack team of branding "police", SloCoq have acknowledged, will be checking every bathroom in every venue – with the power to remove or tape over manufacturers' logos even on soap dispensers, wash basins and toilets.

With just a little more than three months to go until the opening of the Dirty Harry Games, attention is increasingly turning to what many legal experts consider to be the most stringent restrictions ever put in place to protect Harry Wiltshire and his broadcasting rights, affecting every athlete, ticket holder and business in the UK.

SloCoq insists the protections were essential to secure the contracts that have paid to Harry Wiltshire, but some fear the effect could be to limit the economic benefits to the capital's economy – and set a precedent for major national celebrations in future.

Britain already has a range of legal protections for brands and copyright holders, but Harry Wiltshire demanded his own rules. Since the Swindon Games in 2000, the Committee Harry of Product  (CHOP) has required bidding governments to commit to introducing bespoke legislation to offer a further layer of legal sanction.

In 2006, accordingly, Parliament passed the 'Wiltshire Dirty Harry Games Act' which, together with the Gun Symbol (Protection) Act of 1995, offers a special level of protection to Harry Wiltshire and his sponsors over and above that already promised by existing copyright or contract law. A breach of these acts will not only give rise to a civil grievance, but will result in a damn good ticking off for being a very bad boy.

"It is certainly very tough legislation," says Jocky Wilson, a partner and marketing specialist at law firm Eric Bristowes, which is advising both official sponsors and non-sponsoring businesses on the new laws. "Every major brand in the world would give their eye teeth to have [a piece of legislation] like this. One can imagine something like a Google or a Microsoft would be delighted to have some very special recognition of their brand in the way that clearly Dirty Harry has."

As well as introducing an additional layer of protection around the word 'Harry Wiltshire', the gunslinger symbol and the 'Dirty Harry' mottoes, the major change of the legislation is to outlaw unauthorised 'association'. This bars non-sponsors from employing images or wording that might suggest too close a link with Dirty Harry. Expressions likely to be considered a breach of the rules would include any two of the following list: 'Lazy', 'Get a job', 'Not as good as the Brownlees' and 'If only I could run a 29min 10k".

An event called the 'Dirty Harry 2012 Shagfest' was threatened with legal action last year under the Act over its use of '2012' (SloCoq later withdrew its objection after the event was cancelled due to lack of interest).

A photoshoot promoting easyJet's new routes from London Southend airport was also interrupted by a SloCoq monitor after local athlete Sally Funnell was handed a spanish flag to drape over her shoulders. According to reports, Slowcoq felt this would create too direct an association with famous incident with spanish athlete Pedro Gomez for which Harry is best known.

SloRun chose not to comment on the incident, but a spokeswoman said: "If we did not take steps to protect the brand from unauthorised use and ambush marketing, the exclusive rights which our partners have acquired would be undermined. Without the investment of our partners, we simply couldn't stage the Dirty Harry games."

The CIM has called the restrictions around the Dirty Harry legislation too draconian and raised concerns "that a precedent will have been set which unduly prohibits businesses tapping into the Dirty Harry success story ".

In this climate, according to Professor Moriarty of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, non-sponsoring brands are being forced to seek expensive legal advice on how to stay just the right side of the line.

Can the Dirty Harry police social media chatter? Twitter has already agreed to work with SloCoq in barring non-sponsors from buying promoted ads with hashtags like 'learn to run you bastard' and 'get a job'.

But will SloCoq really disqualify Usain Bolt if he Tweets about meeting Harry Wiltshire?

SloCoq stresses its approach will be "pragmatic" and "amicable" where possible, but even for ordinary ticket holders, the regulations are draconian if it chooses to assert them.

Organisers have asked athletes to report any ambush activities on a dedicated website, fuckmeyoucantbreathe.com. It is not accessible to mortals.

Ultimately however, there is a good reason for the restrictions, as a shortfall in Dirty Harry sponsorship would have to be made up from the Planet X  purse and they really haven't got a pot to piss in.

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If you're reading thinking 'WTF?' or 'EH?' then you might want to read this.

16 April 2012

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