Depending on your level of engagement, the Olympics can be an all-consuming event for the two or so weeks it’s on every two years. It’s typically everywhere on TV across a family of networks, unless you’re NBC and more interested in making viewers jump across websites and channels and platforms called Peacock to find their event of choice as though that hunt was an Olympic event in and of itself. And in recent iterations, it’s all over social media, as viewers share the best or at least most interesting moments of the day’s events.
Sharing clips online from big, expensive events is always a dicey proposition: while there’s a certain sense to the idea that posting clips will only serve to increase interest and engagement in the event itself, there’s not necessarily sense involved when it comes to networks that shelled out hundreds of millions, if not billions, for the rights to be the exclusive home to any and all Olympics content.
Thus you end up with stories like this one from Techdirt, in which a sportswriter had the video portion of a viral tweet about the Women’s 1,500m run taken down over a copyright complaint from...someone. Admittedly, it’s unfair to pin this on NBC or the Olympics without knowing who actually went to the trouble of flagging the video for copyright infringement, but it’s also easy to believe that either may have been responsible, or would have done the same thing had some other party not simply beaten them to the punch.
As the article notes, the rightsholders may have been well within their rights to have the clip taken down, but at a certain point, does it become unproductive or even counterproductive to try and police these kinds of things if you’re NBC and/or the Olympics? There’s already the spectre of a COVID-19 surge in Japan hanging over this year’s games, in addition to some unpleasant stories that I won’t mention here. Do they want a key takeaway from fans to be, ‘On the one hand it was hard to find events on Peacock Premium, whatever that is, but on the other hand, it was impossible to find them on Twitter or TikTok or anywhere else’?
There might be a world in which a smarter, more nimble company realizes that while copyright does allow you to start issuing blanket takedowns across social media, blindly and reflexively using it as a hammer in all instances might not actually be the best course of action. But I don’t suppose you get to be the type of media conglomerate that has billions to spend on the Olympics if you allow for things like nuance or flexibility or anything that doesn’t permit for maximizing every dollar into the ethos of the company.