It’s hard to think of an organization more anal-retentive about its trademarks than the International Olympic Committee (and, by extension, the organizing committees for the various Olympic Games). It’s bad enough nobody can use the word “Olympic” without getting angry letters from their lawyers, but now it seems they’re going a bit far, even by their own insane standards.
Take Richard Giles, who went to the Beijing Games last year and posted photos to Flickr under a Creative Commons license. That got a cease and desist letter from the IOC, who argued that the license was too generous, and allowed people to use his images for commercial purposes, which would violate the IOC’s copyrights. Even though he took the images, simply being at an Olympic event meant the IOC had a say in how he used his photos.
Or that Free Tibet protest video that was yanked off of YouTube because the group parodied the Olympic rings logo (in one case, using handcuffs). Or the Chicago Olympic bid logo that had to be changed because it contained a torch.
It’s not just the IOC. The City of Vancouver has raised the ire of civil liberties groups with a new bylaw that would make it easier for them to take down “illegal” signs (those that, say, use the Olympic logo without permission to cash in on the Games) and fine the perpetrators.
These things have already been subject to condemnation in editorials, but now it seems the message isn’t getting through.
The reason for all this, of course, is money. The Olympics are big business, TV networks spend hundred of millions of dollars on broadcast rights, and sponsors pay big money to be able to claim that they support our athletes.
That’s why there are a ridiculous amount of official suppliers for these Games. These include an official home improvement partner (Rona), an official lottery and gaming provider (B.C. Lottery Commission, who I guess aren’t concerned with how this might look), an official motor vehicle insurance company (ICBC), an official document solutions provider (Ricoh), an official medal metal supplier (Teck Resources, which is different from the official medal manufacturer, the Royal Canadian Mint), an official supplier of industrial safety and material handling equipment (Acklands Grainger), an official temperature control system supplier (Aggreko), an official hand sanitizer dispenser supplier (ALDA Pharmaceuticals), an official supplier of insulation materials and heat transfer fluids (Dow Canada), an official water management supplier (EPCOR), an official metal detector supplier (Garrett Metal Detectors), an official cereal supplier (General Mills), an official converged network equipment supplier (Nortel), an official network server supplier (Sun Microsystems of Canada), and an official natural gas pipeline operator (TransCanada).
There are also “media” suppliers, official partners that get to put the Olympic logo on their mastheads until the end of the Games. These include 19 official newspapers in Canada: the Globe and Mail is the official national print newspaper, the Canwest chain gets all 10 of its regional newspapers (including The Gazette) in the regional newspaper category, and Gesca gets its eight papers (including La Presse) in the French newspaper category.
I’m starting to think I should take down that image at the top of this post. VANOC will get mad at me for using the logos, and the category I’ve suggested might just be one that they were expecting bids for.