"Olympians" is a trademarked word, so clearly the site needs to use a different name, such as HotAthletes.com or whatever. But the Olympic lawyers made further claims, insisting that athletes are forbidden to appear on commercial websites. The main complaint of the USOC was that HotOlympians was a commercial website and not a journalistic endeavor. According to an email from the USOC that HotOlympians.com posted on its site:
Rule 41 specifically forbids Olympic athletes to appear in any advertisement, even if it is just a mention of the athlete's name or image, during the 17-day period of the Olympic Games unless the athlete has obtained a written waiver of the rule.Absurdly, the USOC lawyers suggest athletes like Bode Miller would lose their eligibilityy to participate in the Olympics because their images appeared on HotOlympians.com.
As Aaron Bailey, the publisher of HotOlympians pointed out, the athletes are no more "endorsing" his website than they are endorsing ESPN.com, the New York Times website, or the thousands of fan websites that talk about their favorite players and post images of them online. Bailey says he doesn't have the time or money to fight the USOC legally. He plans to relaunch the site under another name without advertising. (NOTE: Popsurfing.com had just purchased an ad for two weeks on the site.)
The USOC has a right to enforce its trademark on the word "Olympians." But it should be fought over its absurd power grab: it is claiming that any website that accepts ads (even ones through AdSense) is breaking the law if they discuss Olympic athletes. If so, ESPN.com and every news media outlet, every fan website and about a million blogs are breaking the law. Fair use of photographs is a separate issue. But the USOC cannot be allowed to establish such a far-reaching and dangerous precedent.