Obama And Romney Each Have An Ad Disappear As The Olympics Gets Snippy About Anyone Referencing The Olympics

from the non-political-because-politics-don't-pay dept

While we’ve had plenty of stories about the Olympics being overly aggressive in over protecting its (loosely defined) intellectual property rights, it appears that it’s now also targeting both major parties’ presidential campaigns. Both Obama and Romney apparently launched commercials recently with “Olympic Themes.” The Olympics then called out the Obama Super PAC campaign for supposedly infringing on its copyright. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) claims that it does not allow footage to be used for political purposes, though I do wonder how it deals with cases of fair use (which this may or may not be). Either way, soon after that a Romney ad that also had an Olympics theme (both ads used footage of Romney in his role as CEO of the Olympic Organizing Committee for the Salt Lake City Olympics a decade ago) went offline as well.

One would hope that — yet again — these stories get the campaigns interested in the ways in which copyright law can restrict certain forms of speech. No matter who you support for President, the idea that neither major candidate can reference the Olympics seems absurd. Yes, the Olympics doesn’t want to be associated with politics (for obvious reasons), but that’s a moral rights issue, and in the US, such moral rights don’t apply to (most) forms of copyright (and definitely don’t apply in this case). What’s left, then, is that the two campaigns are limited in their ability to express themselves freely. That seems like a serious issue, but one which it’s likely the two campaigns will mostly (unfortunately) ignore.

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Comments on “Obama And Romney Each Have An Ad Disappear As The Olympics Gets Snippy About Anyone Referencing The Olympics”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

That or the companies behind them are placing more and more ridiculous restrictions on IOC to force any competing brand from having any say in the olympic names use. That includes blocking political and religious uses and if you can get away with stomping on anyone saying anything negative about the olympics in the process it is a bonus. IOC and the olympics are not the underlying problem here, though they certainly are not squeeky clean. In this case the blame should fall back on at least McDonalds, Coca Cola and Samsung since they are the ones with interests in the restrictions.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

IOC and the olympics are not the underlying problem here

Of course they are. Advertisers can demand all kinds of insane restrictions, but none of them can force the IOC to go along.

The problem is the unbridled greed and corruption of the IOC. that said, I am making it a point to avoid purchasing any product or service that is an Olympic sponsor. Birds of a feather and all that.

James Plotkin (profile) says:

Enough is enough!

This Olympic IPR issue has gotten way out of hand! The games haven’t even started and I’m sick of hearing the word Olympic…wait, did I just infringe someone’s copyright or trade mark.

I’m getting really fed up with this because while I’m a believer in IPR, this type of treatment is insane! It makes those of us who support IP look bad and gives ammunition to the copyright abolitionists…

Just a sorry state of affairs…

Bas Grasmayer (profile) says:

Interesting that they say they don’t want to be associated with politics, since they had no issue with denying the Belarusian president, and head of Belarus’ National Olympic Committee, accreditation. “All NOC heads receive accreditations for the Olympics automatically.”


It’s not about not wanting to be associated with politics. It’s about corporatism & getting every potential penny they can from their IPR, whether in reasonable manner or unreasonable manner.

murph says:

It will probably not turn out as you hope.

_One would hope that — yet again — these stories get the campaigns interested in the ways in which copyright law can restrict certain forms of speech._

In all likelihood, the politicians will push for a new law allowing campaigners to not be restricted, not a reform that will apply to all of us.

Anonymous Coward says:

Can’t we just work out a deal where the Olympics get all the money, power and special treatment they currently get from politics and government but none of the profit-sapping stygma?

Rest assured, if they weren’t so smug and self-confident of their unjustifiable political leverage world-wide, the IOC would be making arguments about this being all about the athletes.

Travis (profile) says:

I hate the olympics

First off, I hate sports. Secondly, I hate it when people use IP and copyright to basically club everyone to death. The Olympics appear to be the most vocal and vigorous offenders. I’d personally LOVE to put an Ad out there of me shitting on the olympic flag just to let them know how much I care about their precious IP.

If they keep this up, I won’t be the only one feeling this way.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I hate the olympics

put up 5 toilets in a shape like the olympic rings, sit on the middle toilet and look up to the camera. Nothing close enough for them to sue, but probably enough to make the association. Then call it “The shitty games”. You have got parody to boot if some ridiculous judge accepts the case.

Anonymous Coward says:

the whole point of the Olympics is to provide friendly competition between nations that may actually be not so friendly ordinarily. what is happening now and getting worse every time is that copyright is sticking it’s ugly snout into the proceedings more and more. there now appears to be absolutely nothing that isn’t affected by it and the detrimental side is becoming more obvious. when decades old businesses have to change their name because some pompous, i am from the Olympic Committee, arse hole says so, it is time for a serious rethink on the whole reason for the Games

Peter Gerdes (profile) says:

Politics Not Copyright

C’mon what do you really think caused these campaigns to pull these ads. These campaigns regularly make use of trademarks, copyrighted speeches and content and all sorts of other protected IP from their opponents. Do you think they would hesitate a second to assert their fair use rights to protect the inclusion of these clips and other IP material. These aren’t unsophisticated common citizens who are intimidated by legal letters. If it was in their interest they would fire back the appropriate papers in the blink of an eye.

I suspect the decision is a simple political calculation. Even if you are correct getting into a public fight with the Olympics is just a bad political move. The IOC, especially by talking about other legal systems with moral rights can easily make the fight confusing enough that the average voter only takes away ‘that candidate is wrangling with the Olympics.’

I doubt any of the ads are so powerful that it’s worth that risk.


Also just because the IOC has no remedy in US courts doesn’t mean they can’t take any action. They could always penalize US athletes, try and bring treaty pressure to bear etc.. etc..

The US can’t stand as the loan bastion against this ridiculous institution of moral rights. We need to work to convince the rest of the world that it’s a harmful notion that restricts freedom.

The only case for copyright is to IP the creation of intellectual goods. Indeed, if you go back to Locke copyright is in clear tension with the idea of property rights. Our entire culture is based on reuse of ideas in ways their creators disapproved of but if they feel strongly enough they have a simple response, don’t sell their works.

(Note, moral rights are different than provisions designed to ensure compensation for authors whose works were sold off before they had bargaining power…that is an economic matter and a different discussion).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Politics Not Copyright

“These campaigns regularly make use of trademarks, copyrighted speeches and content and all sorts of other protected IP from their opponents.”

Using snippets of “…copyrighted speeches and content and all sorts of other protected IP from their opponents.” is fair use.
Re-editing it, like the Rom-nuts are doing, is unethical, but not illegal.

Wally (profile) says:


On any normal circumstance I would agree that the Olympic Committee pulling ads “referencing” the Olympics outside of their sponsors is out of line. Given the nature of the usual American campaign ad, I can see the valid point in pulling those ads mentioned above. The way I see it, the Olympic Games are supposed to be a global affair, not a source for political ad campaigns.

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