Olympic Commitee claims that photographing exterior of venues violates copyrights

Jordan sez, "The IOC, believing that it owns the photos in your shoebox, sent a takedown notice to Richard Giles, AWIA member and rather good photographer. I took notice, as we in Vancouver are about to play host to the 2010 Winter Games. It will be impossible to point your camera at anything in this tiny city without catching some Olympic logo or other."

I hope that the IOC is aware that it's about to show up in one of the most media-savvy towns in the world, and that trying to stop private citizens from posting "unauthorized" photos will be nothing short of a fool's errand. This sort of hostility towards Olympic fans is both wasteful and pointless. Does the IOC not understand why people go to the Olympic Games? (Hint: to come home with once-in-a-lifetime memories. This includes things like... photos) If the IOC has trouble understanding what the Internet does, they can probably find someone to ask. My own consulting rate is quite reasonable.
The Olympics may be the most overrated, corrupt, bullying institution we have on an international level (exempting corporations and organized crime syndicates).

IOC Tries to Take Down Olympic Photos on Flickr (Thanks, Jordan!)


  1. Just wait. Pretty soon the architectural firm will claim that the IOC is violating the EULA on the building, as it was only “licensed” to them.

  2. Haven’t been too keen on Olympics for a few years now. Somewhat bizarre drug testing (ie. teen medalists getting stripped of their medals because their doctor’s cold meds trigger tests, but other athletes in other sports sliding by) gender testing, weird sexism re: which sports (ski-jumping for women anybody?) and the whole graft-and-bribery needed to get the goddamn games in the first place. Sure, come down on a city because they get caught trying to bribe you in the system you set up where you blatantly encourage bribery. Hypocrites. Oh, and awarding games to cities and countries where human rights violations are being regularly ignored. (China, although the US could certainly count as well.)

  3. I also just don’t understand WHY someone would send a takedown notice over something like this. Entertainment companies send them because they think Youtube videos cut into their sales. Organizations send them to block criticism.

    What is the point of sending this one? Is the IOC trying to corner the postcard market? How can this possibly negatively effect them?

    1. I’ll reply to myself here (because I CAN, muahahah!), to add that I don’t support these sorts restrictions, the sole purpose of which seem to be to raise the barrier of entry to commercial sports photography, but they are legitimate and enforceable as far as the law is concerned.

  4. Cory: You said “corporations and organized crime syndicates”. I think that might be redundant?

  5. This has to be a terms of use issues.

    I’ve taken photos for several news organizations in the U.S. and the only publicly viewable place I can’t take photos is in court houses. But, how I use my photos can get me in trouble.

  6. After digging a little, it looks like the problem isn’t that he took photos, but that he put them up as creative commons licensed images on Flickr.

  7. Re the final point: The _IOC_ deserves a few net-bricks thrown at it. The Olympic Games themselves, however, shouldn’t be tarred with the same brush; the athletes really do provide a amazing demonstrations of what the human body is capable of, and generally deserve nothing but praise and applause for their dedication. (Remember, doping is a scandal because it is _not_ the norm!)

  8. lyd: I’m not sure that the cases are comparable. Here it seems to be that the IOC are claiming that it is somehow illegal to take pictures of the outside of a building, and also to reproduce in any way any of their iconography without their permission (a bit bizarre).

    That seems quite different from somebody violating their terms of entry to an event by taking a photograph inside that event and using for commercial purposes; he’s outside the event. The lawyers’ letter – http://www.flickr.com/photos/richardgiles/3988389213/sizes/l/ – makes no statements as to what if any laws they are thinking about. It looks more like the usual vague chilling effect legal threat to me.

    1. What the commenter in that other thread seems to be saying, and what seems to me to be correct based on the provided links, is that the whole “outside of as building” thing is a red herring. The issue is over the photograph of the athlete taken inside and for which Richard subsequently attempted to transfer rights which, according to the agreement on the ticket, he does not control.

      That’s what I’m seeing here so far, anyway.

    2. cubic.archon, Lyd is referring to the exact same case: the letter does not say that it is illegal to take picture outside of a building but it refers to licensing (and not showing) pictures taken INSIDE of the venues…I think a lot of people did not even read that letter and just kept forwarding without even knowing what they’re talking about…
      I think everyone should pay a bit of attention and exercise their judgement, don’t be sheeps forwarding chain letters.

  9. Also, I can’t help but think that the IOC is messing with the wrong guy… I dunno much about the AWIA, but it seems like the sort of organization that could help or hinder any future Australian bids, which would come in handy considering the bad taste the Sydney games left in so many locals’ mouths.

    Then again, the IOC demonstrably doesn’t care what people think.

  10. The IOC and the USOC have been real tight asses about perceived copyright infringement for years. About 5 years ago, there was a terrific band here in Minneapolis called the Olympic Hopefuls — literally a small indie bar band, but a great one at that — and they were sued I believe by the USOC. Having nary a pot to piss in, nor a window to throw it out of, the Hopefuls became…. well, just the Hopefuls. Not sure if they had to give up the vintage Adidas track suits too.

    Not sure if they had to give up the vintage Adidas track suits too.

    I figure Olympia beer (“It’s the Water”) and Olympus cameras suffered a similar fate, but Olympia, Washington was still there last time I checked.

  11. lyd: it’s certainly true that the lawyers’ letter refers to the whole set of pictures, sure. But instead of only saying “this picture here of the actual Games is in breach of your terms of entry and if you don’t take it down we will sue you” (for what, I’m not sure, breach of contract? but anyway) they are also claiming that basically any use of any image relating to the Olympics ever in any way which they don’t authorise is illegal. Which is not the case.

    I’ll grant that they might have been spurred by him licencing a picture of an athlete, but they’ve gone way beyond the limits of the law in their claims – and that’s even before we start thinking about whether the law is an ass or not.

    1. I’m not certain that they have in fact gone beyond the limits of the law with their claims. I am not wholly onboard with the “flickr is a shoebox” notion. I do like the idea, but I also have to recognize that the entire world is not automatically privy to the pictures I place in my real-world shoebox.

      The law is almost certainly an ass, but I think the ass could argue successfully on several levels here.

      The stuff from outside and the word “olympics” in descriptions — I have no argument that there are probably no legitimate claims the IOC make there.

  12. Regardless of the circumstances, the IOC *are* asses. Fortunately, since I live in BC, I have the wonderful opportunity to boycott the Games (wouldn’t be much point in boycotting the ones in Turin, now would it, since I can’t afford to travel to Italy!). Between VANOC’s ludicrous bungling, and the IOC’s asinine stupidity, there’s no reason at all to support this event. All they’ve done is steal money from us, evict poor people, and show a who-gives-a-fuck attitude about the rest of the Province. Now I hear the provincial government is planning to channel (read: launder) many millions of dollars through third-party contractors to pay for VANOC’s overspending. Of course, we’ll learn all the nasty details later through FOIA requests.

  13. Just last week I had a candy company insist that they owned photos I took of their products that were posted on my blog when I reviewed them. (They also said that they were going to grant me permission to use them!)

    Yeah, the Olympics folks are sadly not in the minority as far as I can tell.

  14. @ pixelfish

    Read up on the ski jumping controversy: Womens’ ski jumping hasn’t been at the world-championships level long enough to qualify to be an olympic sport – there’s nothing sexist about enforcing policy that has no reference to gender. No, they don’t deserve a ‘break’ or a ‘leg up’ because *that* is gender descrimination. Once the sport matures, have at it (if they want it in 2014 – the legal bs they’re pulling will probably ensure they don’t make it into the olympics then either.)

    (Anon because it’s PC to treat women like victims regardless of reality)

  15. Sorry … I’m confused … I just don’t understand the distinction Cory has drawn between the IOC and organised crime.

  16. Don’t worry about it There won’t be any citizens snapping pics in Vancouver anyway. There are only 24,000 hotel rooms and 11,000 security people showing up and 10, journalists from around the world and the athletes families. Not enough rooms For visitors unless you want to shell out $700 for a small room on a boat PER NIGHT!

  17. Another really cool thing I’ve just found out is that Visa will be the *only* card accepted at the Vancouver Olympics. No Mastercard, no Amex, not even debit (Interac).

    They’re running surveys with Ipsos to see if the move will affect the National Olympic Commitee’s image :)

  18. Just wanted to give you our (IOC) point of view on this. We really are completely happy for anyone attending an olympic event to take as many pictures as they want and to share them with as many of their friends as they want. Infact we encourage it. It’s great to get that olympic spirit out there with as many people as possible. We even are happy with people sharing them with people they don’t know, other fans and so on. What we are not happy about is the ‘commercialisation’ of those pictures. You’ll see that in this case the image was used in an advertising campaign. We don’t even want the image taken down from Flikr just a note to say it isnt free of rights.
    So please carry on taking pictures and sharing them with friends and strangers alike.
    Trying not to be heavy handed.
    Mark Adams

    1. If the IOC thinks it can clamp down on licenses that allow commercial use, Richard Giles’ photo is just the tip of the iceberg. Wikimedia Commons has hundreds of photos just from the Beijing Olympics alone, all of which are licensed to allow commercial use.

  19. Gotta love those bureaucrats…They’re always thinkin’ “I’m the King of the World…” BAD Idea

  20. the IOC is organized crime. just before the 2004 olympics (in athens greece fkin country that invented the games) they sued a take away restaurant in my neighbourhood because it was called “olympic express”. that place was there for 30 years long before the IOC mafia decided that they own the word olympic and all the derivates. they won the case and the place was renamed. next they will buy mount olympus or sue greece for using the name in maps.

    PS: greece’s x-king and persona non grata in greece is a member of the IOC and enters the country under his IOC member status against the will of the greek people that abolished monarchy and sent him in exile.

  21. I think BoingBoing (and perhaps others) are sensationalizing this particular incident a bit. Seems to me the photo or photos were being licensed for commercial use. Sounds like the IOC is asking that the licensing be removed, not the photos.

  22. In further, further news, the IOC will be sueing Hipster Douchebags over the use of the word Douchebag, and the ill-repute it brings to the entire Douchebag community.

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