Vancouver Olympics Silences Indie Rock Acts With Contractual Gag Order

from the stay-quiet-now dept

We’ve covered how the Olympics has time and time again abused intellectual property law to try to silence all sorts of reasonable activity, and the upcoming Vancouver Olympics have been no exception. In the latest move, sent in by drewmo (though he forgot the link, and made us go searching…) is that a Vancouver-based musician, Carey Mercer, is pointing out that the Vancouver Olympic Committee is pushing contracts on musicians that include a gag order against saying anything bad at all about the Olympics.

The Olympics always has a “cultural component,” a cultural Olympiad, and this year, to quote their puke-in-my-mouth inducing website, they have made a back-patting hullabaloo about including “cutting edge indie rock.” And each and every “cutting edge” performer that has agreed to play has signed a contract that includes the above clause. A clause that states, in case you skimmed over it, that these artists must never say anything negative about an entity that will spend 900 million dollars on “security.” An entity that has already infuriated anti-poverty and anti-homeless groups who accuse VANOC of not living up to its promise of providing affordable housing.

Most participating artists claim to be unaware of this clause.

Part of Mercer’s complaint is that no one seems to be able to determine if the Olympics is a public or private entity, since censorship by a government entity would seem like a big no-no:

No one, including our courts, can figure out if it is a public or private entity. It seems to be public when it needs tax dollars (6 billion), but private whenever it is challenged…

And, sure, you can understand why the Vancouver Olympics might not want musicians it hires to say anything bad about them, but putting a contractual gag clause in there seems to suggest that the organization simply can’t take any criticism. Mercer is also concerned about what this does for the musicians who signed these gag orders, often without realizing it:

When artists are not allowed to critique their government, or the governing agency that endows them with grants and funding, then what they are asking for is nothing more than propaganda.

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Comments on “Vancouver Olympics Silences Indie Rock Acts With Contractual Gag Order”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Biting the hand that feeds?

Mike, nobody is forcing these people to perform. The artist’s customer is VANOC. If the artist doesn’t agree with the customer, and wants to speak against their customer, then why would the artist be hypocritical and work for VANOC?

Seems like you are making a big deal out of nothing.

If the artist wants to exercise free speech on their own dime, nobody is stopping them.

william (profile) says:

Re: Biting the hand that feeds?

Hohoho! Except you can’t exercise free speech on their own dime either.

If you have any kind of signage that opposes or bad mouths Olympics, even if it’s on private property, the police will have the right to bust down your door to take it down.

It’s not really Vancouver’s winter olympics, but more like the Beijin Olympics all over again.

Vancouver has sinked so low that we have similar tactics with China…

P.S. I am a Canadian living in Vancouver and it’s not pretty down here right now…

Kevin Carson (user link) says:

Amy Goodman

I guess you heard about Amy Goodman of Democracy Now getting her car tossed by Canadian border thugs and being interrogated for almost two hours. They seemed obsessed with the possibility that she’d be bad-mouthing the Winter Olympics in her speaking engagements. When they first asked her about the Olympics, she thought they were talking about Obama’s Chicago bid. I don’t think the Vancouver Winter Olympics were even on her radar until Officer Dim got ultraviolent on her.

Well, so much for their efforts to control bad publicity about the Olympics. Score one for the Streisand Effect!

Anonymous Poster says:

Re: Re:

The problem here is that the government works hand in hand with the Olympics to ensure that the IOC gets everything it wants – things like copyrights and trademarks over generic terms, a private police force for ensuring nobody badmouths the Olympics with signs in their homes, and gag orders on musicians who may badmouth the Olympics for being an overblown, costly, worthless “celebration” of sports.

The Olympics doesn’t need all this protection. It doesn’t need gag orders and copyright/trademark protections and police taking signs of protest down. It needs to realize that moves like this make people think the Olympics is run by a bunch of greedy jackoffs instead of thinking that the Olympics is some sort of benevolent force for goodwill and peace between nations.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I suggest you step out of the Interwebs for a minute or two and try living in the real corporate world. Clauses like that on contracts are standard and expected.

Heh. Always love a comment that starts with an insult.

But, back to the point: No, this is not “standard and expected.” Especially not in the case of a quasi-government entity. But even in cases where there are disparagement-type clauses in contracts, they have important limitations on them, which this one appears not to have.

And, even if these were standard, that still doesn’t excuse them.

Whenever I hear someone claim “it’s standard, stop complaining” I remember Fred Wilson’s story of what happened early in his career when he said that to someone:

Claiming “everyone does this” is an excuse of people who can’t defend why it’s there.

Griff (profile) says:

Re: Re: Is this really unusual ?

If I was hired to play a gig at a Ford employees function (paid by Ford) I should not be surprised if there was a clause saying “don’t badmouth Ford”.
Why is this surprising.

If the artist feels so negatively towards the Olympics that they feel this “gag order” is so unacceptable, perhaps they should maintain their artistic integrity entirely and choose not to perform for the VANOC at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Is this really unusual ?

“The artist shall at all times refrain from making any negative or derogatory remarks respecting VANOC (the organizing committee), the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Olympic movement generally, Bell and/or other sponsors associated with VANOC.”

AT ALL TIMES. And it applies to many outside the direct scope of the company. I bet the contract with Ford was limited to the term of the contract/employment. I am also sure it did not bar you from badmouthing other companies that does business with Ford in some way or another (like, you cannot say anything bad about any TV station, radio station, or newspaper because they run ads.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Mike, I think that you are giving airtime to a very small and very annoying minority who are going to pick and poke at the Vancouver Olympics no matter what happens. These are people who have lost at every step along the way in the democratic process, and now they are down to picking nits and attempting to stir up controversy at every turn.

Contractual clauses such as this are very common, I have seen regular work contracts that include clauses about discussing the company, your work, etc. All the Olympic organizers are trying to do is stop the negative nellies from sneaking in and making a big stink in the middle of public events. It’s pretty normal.

Don’t let the people who would want to spoil a great interenational event spoon feed you their crap. They don’t deserve the time of day.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The clause is “any and all times” it is not referring to “negative nellies” speaking out during the event – it is preventing them from speaking out AT ALL. Now, I can see corporations squashing talk about corporate secrets or work being done, but for what is (at least partially) a government organization to include a “don’t say anything bad” clause is a bit off.

Also, saying this is ok because this type of wording is in a lot of contracts is a false premise argument. It makes the assumption that all of the other contracts are good. I would argue that all uses of this type of wording are more likely questionable than argue that it’s use elsewhere ensures it is ok here.

NullOp says:

Been there...

Living in Atlanta I can tell you there will be ‘bad things’ to say about the Olympics. The “Olympic Experience” is a mixture of good and bad by its very nature. I found, in the end, the experience to overwhelmingly wonderful.

The Olympic Committee is a Eurocentric group and feels they “own” the Olympics. But not in a ‘good way.’ They feel entitled to positive press in every case as they have brought this wonderful thing, out of the goodness in their hearts, to your town. Sorry, guys, it just ain’t so!

My advise is don’t sign anything that goes against the natural law of free speech. Strike a blow for freedom!

Humboldtus says:

Wanting to visit the Olympics, no tickets :(

I have been searching the ‘net for info. on what Olympic access there will be in Vancouver for tourists. I was thinking of traveling up to Vancouver during the Olympics. I don’t have any tickets
to the events, but I thought there may be other events going on in the city. I read about the Olympic village and it seems like it is not accessible to the general public. Isn’t there always some type of Olympic Park where things are going on? I read about an Olympic park in Whistler, but it is not open to the public. I don’t want to travel hundreds of miles and have no chance of actually meeting anyone accept by chance. Can someone tell me if there are any public events in Vancouver or the other Olympic venues or a chance to meet the athletes or other celebs? Perhaps there are other blogs or websites you could recommend?

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