Olympics’ assault on fair use

Take a look at this clip from CTV News announcing our medal haul for today. Notice anything odd about it? The athletes look a bit stationary, don’t they?

This isn’t because of technical problems, or because a video editor got lazy, or even NBC’s controversial time-shifting of “live” broadcasts. It’s because of draconian rules about rebroadcasting of video from Olympic events.

Broadcasters pay a truckload of money in order to get rights to live Olympic events. That’s not so unusual. All the major sports leagues work the same way. The difference is that after the event is complete, other networks can rebroadcast clips from them in their news reports. It’s a gentleman’s agreement, but more importantly it’s the law. Fair use rules for copyright (“fair dealing” in Canada) allow broadcasters to show short clips from events as part of news reports about them.

But for the Olympics, that’s not the case. Even CBC, which has the rights to the Olympics, has to strip Olympic video from its National podcast because the latter is distributed out of the country.

The networks, including the U.S. ones like ABC and CBS, have tucked their tails between their legs and accepted these draconian rules. Instead, they awkwardly fudge their reports with still photos, file footage of practices or earlier events, or post-event press conferences.

It’s ridiculous. And someone needs to make it stop.

3 thoughts on “Olympics’ assault on fair use

  1. Marc

    The problem is squarely with the IOC. They have got the greatest con job in history. They make multi-billions each Olympics and they don’t really have to do anything to earn it. They buy the medals, some flowers, maybe some meals. But they certainly don’t pay for the broadcasters, for the athletes, for the venues, for the merchandise and on and on. What do they do with this money? They line their pockets with it. They’re so tight-assed that even usng the word “Olympic” is an infringement of copyright. Unless, of course, you’ve paid the IOC a ton of money to use it. The Olympics have lost whatever relevance they had.

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  2. Josh

    even NBC’s controversial time-shifting of “live” broadcasts.

    Actually, I’d say it has everything to do with NBC’s wonky scheduling when it comes to the Olympics. If I’m NBC, and CBS is allowed to air footage from the men’s 100 metres that shows Usain Bolt dominating the field before my network can air it in prime time – well, remind me why I’m paying all this money for the rights again?

    The networks, including the U.S. ones like ABC and CBS, have tucked their tails between their legs and accepted these draconian rules. Instead, they awkwardly fudge their reports with still photos, file footage of practices or earlier events, or post-event press conferences.

    If those networks have any designs on securing the Olympic broadcast rights ever again, they will continue to play ball with the IOC. It is simply *not* going to be a major television network that ever makes this stop.

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  3. Fagstein Post author

    I might understand a bit if the networks were holding off until tape-delayed broadcasts could occur.

    But in many cases it’s reports that aired after the events appeared on television. All the stuff about Michael Phelps were reported using still photos almost a full day after NBC carried the races live.

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