No fewer than 18 world-class athletes are fuming over a Facebook app that lets users see how closely they are connected to stars of the Olympic games. The app, powered by Samsung, ties in its products and services to the upcoming 2012 games. It is essentially like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, but instead of Kevin Bacon it’s professional athletes who have won in the Olympics. Now, a dozen and a half of those athletes are suing.
They claim that Samsung is using their likeness without permission. Attorney Richard Foster said, “They’re using names and images to sell products, and they’ve admitted in interviews that they’re trying to create a more positive image for Samsung. California law says you can’t use anybody’s name or image to market a product unless you have their consent.” However, the real question here may be whether or not the United States Olympic Committee can overpower that law.
According to Samsung, it worked directly with the committee to create the app, and it says that if athletes had a problem with it, they should have spoken to that group, not Samsung. “Athletes have had the opportunity to voice their opinions on the program and to control their participation. Samsung will continue to support Team USA and the spirit of the Olympics in our efforts,” Samsung commented.