Taxation of image rights in Australia: Key points for athletes from the Brisbane Lions decision

Published 26 October 2017 | Authored by: Cassandra Heilbronn

In Australia, a sportsperson does not have a right of property in their publicity or personality rights. Therefore, to protect any goodwill in their reputation, a sportsperson will generally enter into an agreement granting a non-exclusive licence to a trustee to use and exploit their image.

Two recent decisions handed down in Queensland relating to the Brisbane Lions have shown the importance of ensuring there is a clear separation between payments for use and exploitation of an image, and payments for promotional and marketing services (say through an appearance by a sportsperson).

This article examines:

  • the Brisbane Lions case
  • the Australian Taxation Office’s (ATO) treatment of image rights
  • the need for properly drafted image rights agreements, and 
  • the ATO’s proposed "Safe Harbour" for apportionments

Full reviews of the decisions can be found at the bottom of the article for readers not familiar with the facts.

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About the Author

Cassandra Heilbronn

Cassandra Heilbronn

Cassandra is a Senior Associate at MinterEllison, Brisbane in the Insurance and Corporate Risk practice group, focusing on sports law, health law and medical negligence, and management liability.

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