Sports stars and celebrities can protect their image rights by registering under new intellectual property laws in Guernsey.
Guernsey Finance, which promotes the island’s financial services sector, says the new laws are the first passed by an international jurisdiction.
A spokesman for Guernsey Finance said: “The law has been designed for today’s culture of celebrity where image and brand are increasingly important and, until now, they have been difficult to protect.”
The body is also making no secret that it hopes the new law will attract investors and asset managers from around the world who will then, hopefully, move their trusts and foundations to a better regulated environment.
The move means that a range of celebrities from footballers to actors and musicians can register their images – and also those for brand logos and fictional characters.
Already, one famous name has allegedly signed up and more are in the pipeline, but no one is telling who they are.
A recent conference in London heard Guernsey’s intellectual property registrar, John Ogier, say the new law effectively combined legislation which covered trademarks, copyright and ‘passing off’.
Now if a third party wants to use an image of a registered celebrity they will need to have a licence to do so – without one they face being sued in Guernsey’s courts.
The judgement from the court can be enforced in the UK, and several other countries, under reciprocal legal arrangements.
However, the most attractive part of registering an image right is that they can become lucrative assets and which can be used to mitigate tax bills.
Foreign football players especially could set up an offshore company to shelter their image rights earnings and without paying UK tax – which is something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by several professional financial advisors.
Footballers kicked off trend
Others who do pay UK tax could pay just 28% in corporation tax on the earnings instead of the 50p top rate.
HM Revenue and Customs has looked into several football clubs paying, what they termed ‘over the odds’, for a players rights in recent years.
Most notably the former footballers Dennis Bergkamp and David Platt have used this tactic of using a company to shelter their image rights as a pension fund and claim that the payments were ‘reasonable’ under the circumstances.
Now Guernsey is quickly developing an expert pool of talent to help exploit the new law with 150 advocates, financial service providers and intellectual property specialists attending training courses being run by the island’s Intellectual Property Office.