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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Filed Under: barack obama, copyright, mitt romney, olympics, politics

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  1. identicon
    Peter Gerdes, 27 Jul 2012 @ 10:06am

    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).

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