If you have been following me on Facebook, you know that last week I traveled to Vancouver, Canada, to watch the Winter Olympics. I love to take photos and videos and of course took a million photos and videos. The problem is that I apparently broke the law well over 100 times while I was up in Canada. These laws and their enforcement need to be updated.
Let’s start with a photo of Scott Stanfield and I being the ugly Americans wearing our Team USA jersey at a hockey game (USA crushed Norway 6-1!). A friend’s wife took it for us using my personal camera. While I did not ask Scott if I can post it, having known me for 10 years, he knows that if you pose for a photo with me, it will be online-so permission is implied. Nothing wrong with this photo, right?
According to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), this is a borderline case. While it is ok to take the photo of ourselves at the venue, live action is going on in the background. Good news for us is that you can’t see it in the photo. I am safe, the IOC won’t send lawyers to shut this blog down.
Now take a look at this photo:
Similar in nature to the one above of Scott and me, this photo is in the stands of a spectator. Sure this crazy cow-bell ringing Swiss dude did not give me his permission, but that is between him and me, not the IOC. (Trust me, he wants to be photographed!)
I posted this photo on a sports blog along with a small video of the same (to show the world how exciting and crazy Curling, yes curling is, and how rowdy the Swiss fans are with their cow bells!)
Not so fast according to the IOC. They sent me a nasty-gram legalese email and made me pull the photos and video down. You can see the ice in the lower right hand corner as well as the “articles of play” or the stones used by the curlers as well as one of the Olympic judges and logos. I am violating the IOC’s copyright right now, just posting it here again. (And YOU can go to jail just for looking at it!)
The old school copyright laws are out of date. There is a difference between me downloading movies and me taking a photo at a live sporting event. (Or any live event for that matter.) My views on the RIAA and MP3s are well known (they are pure evil), however, let’s take a minute to think about the copyright at the Olympics.
I understand that NBC and other broadcasters paid the IOC a lot of money for the exclusive rights to show the Olympics on TV. I also understand that without that money, the Olympics would be difficult to stage. If I recorded an entire event, or even a very important small part of an event (like the winning shot for the hockey Gold metal), I understand that that takes away from NBC’s exclusive coverage.
That said, that is not what I am doing. I was taking photos and videos of the atmosphere, the venue, the fans and surroundings. While at times I did get some live action in my frame, mostly it was stuff that the TV cameras did not care about. For example, most readers of this blog are technology savvy people who think that curling is a waste of time. I went to Canada believing the same thing. After attending curling, I was in awe of curling and its strategy, skill and the excitement of the plays coming down to the wire. I enjoyed it so much, I went to a second match!
I was also blown away by the crowd. At the US-Swiss men’s game, the Swiss spectators were out of control. (Switzerland had a huge come from behind win on the last extra end shot.) It was like the 7th game of the World Series (or final match at the World Cup for you non-Americans) chanting over and over at the top of their lungs: Go Swiss! Pounding the floor with their feet over and over. Boom boom boom! And the cow-bells. Oh the cow-bells! Singing the Swiss National Anthem after the match. Totally awesome! I captured the essence of this sheer excitement in the photo above. The IOC wants me to remove it.
Here is an example where a law is meant to protect a party (the IOC) and my violation of that law in actually helping the “protected” party. My photos are free advertising for the IOC. In addition with my enthusiasm, I am helping spread the word about curling, how much fun the Olympics were in person, and bring more attention to the Olympics in general. Someone who was not interested in curling and the Olympics may decide to go to the Olympics in 2012 or watch it on TV because of my blog post and photo. Or someone may google Olympic Curling and be brought to an Olympic site and possibly buy something or watch a video, a video that was sponsored and brought in revenue to the IOC. More to the point, the collection of photos by the thousands of spectators on flickr, Facebook, and blogs, etc, not just mine, will bring in even more to the IOC. The more people the violate the copyright, the more value for the IOC is created.
By violating the law, I am helping the IOC make money. If I follow the law, I am doing economic harm to the IOC in potential lost profits and free advertising. The system is clearly broken. The more photos on flickr, Facebook, and blogs, etc, the better off the IOC is. Copyright laws and their enforcement need to change, catch up with digital media and social networking.
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The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent
my employer's view in anyway.