Shouldn’t The Olympics Be In the Public Domain?

August 1, 2012

by — Posted in Personal Writing


I was going to find a picture of the Olympic rings for this piece.   I didn’t want to worry about the copyright implications.   So I show you a picture of my start in a swimming career that went nowhere (seriously how did I grow up in a boating community that doesn’t have a swim team).  The copyright angle is important.   Copyright is what the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is fighting to control.  It can not copyright the statistics or facts that occur in the game, but it can control the performance.

The first showing of this of course was Friday when the games opened.   In the rest of the world the opening was shown live without commercial breaks.   In America it was delayed five hours, chopped up, commercials inserted in every possible spot, and some parts completely removed.   NBC didn’t want to show it live, because they stated Americans wouldn’t have understood it without the context of commentary.   There were ways to subvert NBC.

The first method was one that I actually knew people who performed it – they routed off of an anonymous proxy which showed they lived in Britain.   They didn’t actually live in Britain, the servers just thought they did.   They watched the games live without commercial breaks.   If I had not been at work I’m sure I would have watched this way.   Later that night I just watched most of the performances via a live stream (I don’t get a TV signal at my house).

The IOC and NBC were playing whack-a-mole with these livestreams.  I know at least two of the ones I was using got cut off during the openings.   When a third was removed shortly before the parade of nations, I just stopped and moved to watching streaming television shows.   At least the livestream I was watching had commercials – my netflix, no commercials.   Essentially NBC lost eyeballs for cutting this viewership off – all in the name of copyright.

The IOC know that some people really want to see the games.   This is why they sell off media rights to outlets in different countries to the tune of millions of dollars.   They also sell off the rights to host the games, which also costs cities millions of dollars of infrastructure that usually goes to waste after the games.   This is so the city can cash in on all the visitors that come to see the Olympics.

The IOC does provide the medals, those I’m sure this is a fraction of the money they receive into the organization.   They don’t even really have to advertise the games.   Everyone knows the games happen every four years.   The stations and cities that won the bids pump millions into advertising for the games.   Once again the cost to the IOC is nothing.

It costs you though.   If you were attending the Olympics, unless you have press credentials, you don’t own the copyright to any video or picture you take.   They have tried to limit texting and twitter use.   They have banned the use of wireless hotspots at Olympic locations.   Granted all this just causes mass data congestion, I’m sure the reception is terrible.   This is because the IOC is trying to maintain control.

The IOC doesn’t want to break the contract it made with NBC to show the commercials and make millions of dollars, just because some guy at the swim meet is Ustreaming the event.  Let’s look for a moment though, the original Olympics were not about making money.

We will skip the ancient Greece part and move forward to the modern Olympics which started in 1821.  After the first revival the Olympics struggled to get traction.  People were not interested in them.   They moved it forward as a method to promote world peace.   Why should we be killing each other when we can do synchronized swimming and get the gold.   The gold is the equivalent as killing the competition.

It wasn’t until the last seventy years or so that the Olympic games even became a big deal.   It was something people kind of knew about – but bring in the advertisers.  Advertisers and broadcasters hyped up the game and made it a modern spectacle.  Instead of promoting countries to come together for a peaceful competition – it’s about making money now.   The side effect is that athletes are competing.   If they could make the same money without the athletes, NBC wouldn’t bother broadcasting at all.

When I was little I think I only became aware of the Olympics because of Wheaties.  I think it might have taken a few more years if it wasn’t for the commercials featuring this random gold medalist that was going to be on the box.  My whole life it has been about commercialism.  It shouldn’t be.

If this is for peace and coming together all the content should be retained by whoever films it.  It should also be filmed by everyone.   Governments should have an official stream that they offer to its citizens.   It’s our tax money that builds the games infrastructure.  It is out tax money that trains and sends our athletes to the games.   We pay extra cost by being subjected to advertising and delayed screening of events.  The games are something that should belong to us all.   Something that is apart of our national heritage has been stripped away for commercialization.




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