Attention: Spectators at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics next year will be allowed to post their photos on social media but not video and audio.
Many who learned they won the right to purchase tickets Thursday may not have noticed a clause on the official 2020 Olympics website that spells out the restrictions.
“Ticket holders are not allowed to post videos and sound recordings taken at the venue on TVs, radios and the internet, including social media and other live streaming services along with other digital media, without prior consent from the IOC,” it said, referring to the International Olympic Committee.
The revelation went viral, with many calling the ban “not fitting with the times,” and in the era of selfies, it won’t be possible to prevent everyone from posting photos and video. Similar policies have been in place since at least 2012.
The organizers of London 2012 inserted a clause in their spectator policy prohibiting people from using images, video and sound recordings of the 2012 Games “for any purpose other than for private and domestic purposes.”
“As the policies are put forward by the Organising Committee with review from the IOC, wording for ticket terms and conditions can vary between editions of the Games, but we can confirm that the policy around filming has remained similar for several Games now,” the IOC said in an email.
While critics doubt whether the ban is feasible and in line with reality, experts say it is understandable for the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee to protect the high-priced broadcasting rights TV stations around the globe pay to air the games exclusively.
“Profits from broadcast rights are needed to support sports global development and constitute an essential funding of the Olympic Games,” the Tokyo Organizing Committee explained in an email response.
“If these conditions were not implemented, the revenue would plunge and would have a direct negative effect on the development of various sports around the world and on organizers of the games,” it said.
The IOC has garnered $2.3 billion, including broadcasting rights, for two Olympic Games — the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, the organizer said.
Yoshiyuki Tamura, a professor at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Law who specializes in intellectual property, said Tokyo’s organizers have ample reason to prevent others from profiting from the quadrennial sports event.
“It’s obvious the IOC is concerned about its business,” Tamura said in a telephone interview. “If users kept releasing footage or recordings from sports competitions for free, the IOC’s high price tag for broadcast rights sold to media companies would no longer be justified.”
But he was not so sure about another clause in the ticket policy.
By applying for tickets, the policy stipulates the holder has agreed that the copyrights on photos, video and sound recordings taken at games venues belong to the IOC.
This clause enables both the IOC and the TOC to demand that social media services remove unauthorized content from their platforms. But it also means users won’t have the legal right to freely share their content, including selfies.
Generally, the copyrights for photos, video and audio recordings belong to their creators, allowing people to upload freely.
Tamura, however, said the clause raises questions about the legal grounds for such restrictions.
“I understand the rationale behind the IOC’s stance on protecting their profits but I also understand claims that rights to stream footage and recordings should belong to those who created them,” Tamura said.
“It may become an issue, whether (the filming) restrictions apply to Article 90 of Japan’s Civil Code,” Tamura said.
Article 90 stipulates that a juristic act, such as a contract, that is against public order and morals is void.
This means spectators might be able to challenge the restrictions for the 2020 Games, claiming the agreement between the ticket holder and IOC is contrary to public order, Tamura said.
Event organizers often prohibit ticket holders from filming or photographing events. Such regulations, however, are usually for concerts or other live events out of concern that copies of copyrighted works could be illegally distributed via unauthorized physical media or online for commercial gain. But sports events are less likely to contain copyrighted works or content, said Tamura.
“Therefore, the clause demanding that spectators give up their rights to, and prohibiting them from sharing filmed or recorded content on social media, may become an issue,” he said.
As of April, more than 4 billion people worldwide were believed to be active internet users and 45 percent of the 7.7 billion world population were recognized as using social media, according to Nielsen Corp., the U.S. data analytics company.
Are such strict policies in the era of technological advancement needed?
“It’s a difficult question,” Tamura said.
“In the time before social media, selling broadcast rights to media organizations was an effective way to raise money needed to organize the games, but it is not working as it used to anymore,” he said. “We need to start seeking more effective, alternative ways of raising money, as opposed to relying on profiting from old-style content to make the Olympics happen,” he said.
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