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Media banned from sharing gifs and Vines during Rio Olympics opening ceremony

Artists perform during the opening ceremony for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Photo / AP
Artists perform during the opening ceremony for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Photo / AP

The International Olympic Committee has banned news organisations around the world from sharing gifs and Vines from today's opening ceremony in Rio.

The ban on the popular short and highly shareable social media clips will continue throughout the entire Games and has enraged the international media and fans of social media.

A spat over the issue broke out on Thursday when news organisations took exception to IOC's guidelines for news outlets covering the event stating: "The use of Olympic Material transformed into graphic animated formats such as animated GIFs (ie GIFV), GFY, WebM, or short video formats such as Vines and others, is expressly prohibited."

The Guardian in the UK today reported that IOC's regulations have come under repeated criticism in the build up to the Games. The Olympics organisers recently banned any other businesses from using the terms, "summer", "gold", "games", "effort", "victory", "Rio" and "2016" in relation to the games.

A ban on gifs and Vines is among the issues that New Zealand media companies, NZME (publisher of the Herald) and Fairfax, took exception to in media accreditation rules set by the IOC and Sky TV for New Zealand.  However, that was considered a minor item compared to other restrictions Sky and the IOC imposed, with the support of the New Zealand Olympic Committee, and led to both organisations refusing to send news reporting teams to Rio.  The main complaint centred on the IOC and Sky TV attempting to force New Zealand media to waive their legal and legitimate video reporting rights on events at the Games for a far more restrictive and limited regime.

The IOC isn't the first sports body to try to clamp down on highlights being shared on social media. England's Premier League launched a campaign in 2014 to stop the spread of goal highlights being shared on Vine. Vines are often posted seconds after a goal has been scored. The Premier League argued that broadcasters had paid billions for exclusive rights to the footage and they had to protect their intellectual property.

NFL, UFC and the NCAA had the Twitter accounts of sports websites Deadspin and SBNation shut down last year, after they filed complaints under the Digital Media Copyright Act. The DMCA obliges Twitter to take down any content being shared which violates copyright of the plaintiff.

It remains unclear if the IOC will be able to enforce the rule if news organisations share or host GIFs created by independent users which some have already offered to provide.
The Guardian reported that the reaction to the rule was "further bad press for the Games, as the build-up has been mired by news of unfinished living quarters, contaminated water for swimmers and doping scandals".

Athletes competing at the Games are also caught up in the IOC's social media clampdown.

It emerged last week than if any of their personal sponsors even tweet a 'good luck at the Olympics' message, it will get them in trouble and even cost them medals.

Words such as '2016', 'effort' and 'Olympian' - or even a picture of a medal - cannot be used by non-approved sponsors in any sort of advertising.

The punishment could mean athletes losing medals, although a reprimand would be the more likely outcome.

The Olympics' Rule 40 means athletes must cut ties with non-official partners until three days after Rio.

The by-law states only approved sponsors may reference "Olympic-related terms" from 27 July until midnight on 24 August, so personal sponsors such as kit suppliers are not even allowed to re-tweet athletes.

British former heptathlete Kelly Sotherton suggested the IOC was more interested in punishing athletes over sponsorship infringements than for doping.

"If your sponsor says good luck to you in Olympic time you face being booted out, but drugs cheats??! #rule40," she posted on Twitter.

So what can't they say?

According to the IOC, "Olympic-related terms" include the following, depending upon context:

• 2016
• Rio/Rio de Janeiro
• Gold
• Silver
• Bronze
• Medal
• Effort
• Performance
• Challenge
• Summer
• Games
• Sponsors
• Victory
• Olympian

While "Olympic listed terms or expressions" include:

• Olympic
• Olympics
• Olympic Games
• Olympiad
• Olympiads
• The Olympic motto "Citius - Altius - Fortius" (which is Latin for "Faster, Higher, Stronger) and any translation of it.

- NZ Herald

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