Comedian Leslie Jones earned the title of “Olympic Super Fan” when her posts about the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro got the attention of fans, and eventually, NBC. The network invited her out to Rio to be a contributor to its coverage of the Olympics and did so again for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
But Jones is not in the same role for Beijing 2022, and instead, according to a post she made to her 1.6 million followers on Instagram, her videos of the Olympics are getting blocked. She’s said this may be the last Olympics she live-tweets because of it.
Can the Olympics and NBC block your Olympic videos on social media?
Lumen Database, an online database of cease and desist letters concerning online content
Twitter posts containing Olympic media
Yes, the Olympics and NBC can block your Olympic videos on social media.
WHAT WE FOUND
Broadcast coverage of the Olympics is tightly regulated by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and NBC because broadcasting rights for the Olympics are worth billions of dollars. The IOC and NBC frequently issue takedown notices on Olympic videos posted to social media by people without rights to the Games’ broadcast content.
NBC can make exceptions, which is what has happened since Leslie Jones first posted about her posts getting taken down. Currently, the videos of Leslie Jones’ Olympic commentary remain up on her Twitter and Instagram feeds. NBC issued a statement on Feb. 8 saying Jones is free to continue tweeting her commentary videos that include NBC’s Olympic broadcast material.
“This was the result of a third-party error, and the situation has been resolved,” an NBC spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “She is free to do her social media posts as she has done in the past. She is a super fan of the Olympics, and we are super fans of her.”
But NBC and the IOC do block other posts containing Olympics content on social media. That happens, in part, because of how valuable Olympics video content is.
The IOC says broadcasting has been the principal driver of funding for the Olympic movement and Olympic Games and its growth in popularity.
NBCUniversal’s current contract for Olympic broadcast rights within the U.S. alone was valued at nearly $8 billion. The agreement gives NBC the exclusive U.S. broadcast rights for the Olympics on both television and the internet through 2032.
NBC airs the Olympics on its television networks and online platforms. It also posts clips from its broadcasts on its social media channels. The contract is meant to ensure that when an American watches the Olympics, it’s through NBC, and when an Olympic clip goes viral on Twitter, it’s an NBC clip.
But NBC is just one of the many broadcast partners the IOC works with across the globe.
“The IOC owns all the global broadcast rights to the Olympic Games, including via television, radio, mobile phones and internet platforms,” the Olympic Charter says. “It is responsible for awarding these rights to broadcasters around the world, to ensure the widest possible coverage of the Games.”
For the 2018 Winter Olympics, NBC’s Olympic news access guidelines restricted the timing, frequency, length and programs in which news broadcasts could use recorded footage of Olympic events. For example, recorded Olympic material could only appear in a maximum of three television newscasts per day on any given station, and no individual recorded excerpt could be longer than 30 seconds each for a combined two-minute maximum in any single newscast.
NBC and the IOC often file takedown notices against companies and individuals who violate the rules. When these takedown notices are directed at social media posts containing Olympic videos, GIFs or audio, they are often directed at the social media companies themselves, which in turn remove the post or the media the takedown notice is directed at. This is the standard process for removing copyrighted content from social media websites, which each have their own policies for removing such content.
One such notice was against Twitter for a video posted by Mediate journalist Jackson Richman. The Lumen Database, an online database of cease and desist letters concerning online content, shows a DMCA takedown notice was filed against Twitter for the post on Feb. 5. While Richman’s post remains up, the video within the post is gone and replaced with text reading, “This media has been disabled in response to a report by the copyright owner.”
Even Olympic athletes themselves become targets for such takedown notices. Tiana Bartolla, an Olympic gold-medalist in track and field, said last August she was in “Facebook jail” for a week twice over the same post containing Olympic content.
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