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

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Thursday, 26 October 2017 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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Written by

Cassandra Heilbronn

Cassandra Heilbronn

Cassandra Heilbron

Cassandra is the Sports, Entertainment and Events Regulation Legal Manager at the Royal Commission for AlUla, and prior to June 2019 was a Senior Associate in the Sports and Corporate Risk practice group at MinterEllison in Australia. Her practice areas saw her acting in commercial matters with worldwide sporting organisations, corporations and sponsors; event management; player disputes on behalf of Clubs and governing bodies; player selection appeals for international athletics competitions and managing image rights and social media disputes (defamation and discrimination). Over the past twelve years, Cassandra also acted in insurance disputes primarily in the management liability, professional indemnity, medical negligence and public liability space.

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