Following a half-day hearing, Ofcom today upheld an earlier ruling by the ITC that the long-running television adverts for the 118 118 directory service featuring the so-called ‘mystery runners’ had infringed David Bedford’s image rights. The Number, the owners of the 118 118 service, were forced to admit that they used Bedford’s image in devising the look of the runners (in spite of previous claims that they were based on generic 70s runners and/or the late American athlete, Steve Prefontaine).

Having been found to be in breach of the Advertising Standards Code by caricaturing legendary former 10,000m world record holder Bedford without his permission, no new adverts using the mystery runners can be shown in the future without further breaches of the Code.

Throughout the course of his complaint, presented by specialist sports media lawyers, Couchman Harrington Associates, the Number failed to take up Bedford’s offer to mediate. Indeed, the Ofcom decision endorsed Bedford’s view that the Number had taken an aggressive approach that ruled out an accommodation that could have prevented the complaint being pursued this far.

Bedford confirmed that the ruling clears the way for him to proceed with court action to recover damages from the Number, which could not be pursued until Ofcom’s ruling was made final. He is also reviewing the decision’s impact on the Number’s existing adverts with his lawyers.

Bedford’s solicitor, Adrian Rubenstein said ‘this is an important ruling in the evolution of image rights protection in this country. The advertising industry will have to make sure that it updates its practices to prevent more claims like this arising in the future’. Bedford said ‘I am pleased that Ofcom has now vindicated my claim that the Number has ‘ripped off’ my image. They had denied this all along and dismissed my complaint as absurd. It’s a pity that they didn’t think to at least ask me for my approval at any point during what has turned out to be a very long campaign’.

Further information can be obtained from:

David Bedford
020 7902 0187

Couchman Harrington Associates (Adrian Rubenstein, Nic Couchman)
020 7611 9660