By Isaac Marrero-Guillamon (Goldsmiths, University of London)
I encountered the logo you can see in the image above in the summer of 2012 – first as an online image, then as a copyright controversy that made it to the news, and finally printed on t-shirts (mostly worn at anti-Olympics events).
Space Hijackers (SH), an activist collective who define themselves as “a group of Anarchitects”, had set up a webpage (1) where people could “sign up to be part of the official protest of the Games” and apply for tickets to official protest events. They warned visitors to “be wary of bogus sites claiming to give you access to protest at the Games. Ensure you only register with our authorized website.”
The website, and the tweeter account associated with it, caught the attention of LOCOG (the London Olympics Organizing Committee), a limited company created to organise the Games and exploit them commercially. Acting within their legal remit, they accused SH of “inappropriate association” with the Olympic brand, arguing that their use of the official logo could create confusion. According to LOGOG, SH were impersonating the Games’ official organisers.
Soon after, Tweeter duly responded to the accusation and shut their account without previous notice. This of course made news amongst activist circles, but also in the mainstream media (2), which of course further publicised the campaign and contributed to its notoriety.
Following a bit of back and forth, Tweeter ended up restoring their account. This, according to SH, meant that the “confusion” had finally been resolved – and their status as official protesters officially recognised. Later on, in order to avoid further conflict with LOCOG, they stopped selling the tshirts and instead posted the instructions to make your own. The DIY shirt became even more popular, and was worn by many activists in the spring and summer of 2012.
I think the campaign raises interesting questions for Curating the activist object. First, it produced a momentary shortcircuit in the logic of the copyright system: SH managed to drag LOCOG into a paradoxical position, where denouncing them meant recognising the success of the campaign. Second, it involved connecting ‘viral’ online tactics with offline actions, so that the debate over the trademarking of the Olympics (which, lets not forget, included protection over the flag, the motto, the anthem, the emblems, the flame, the torches, and words such as “Olympiad”, “Olympian”, “Olympic”, “Summer”, “2012”, “Gold”, “Silver”, “Bronze”, or “Medals”) proliferated unexpectedly. Third, it made use of satire and DIY methods in ways people could easily participate in – allowing the campaign to become appropriated by many, rather than directed by HS.
(Image from SpaceHijackers.org)
1 http://www.protestlondon2012.com (as of June 2014 the site seems to be down.)
2 It was featured amongst others in The Guardian , The Telegraph , and Wired .