One only has to look at how hard countries work to become Olympics hosts to know that the games involve huge sums of money, on both sides of the ledger. While it certainly bought in some tidy sums for the Chinese, the 2008 Beijing games are believed to have cost around $40 billion.
The outlays associated with the Olympics need to be clawed back in every possible way and one of the options is the selling of TV rights. In 2012, NBC paid the International Olympic Committee around $1 billion for broadcasting rights and as a result wanted to protect their investment.
Next year it’s expected that Russia will spend a record $50 billion to put on the Sochi winter games. Local broadcasting deals have already been sewn up by the IOC, with Channel One, RTR, NTV and RIA Novosti securing the key rights and other broadcasters having to settle for putting out a maximum of just six minutes of footage per day.
Needless to say, the Internet isn’t going to care about the IOC’s rules, much less abide by them. There will be hundreds of unauthorized streams and downloadable torrents of the games, from the opening ceremony through to the closing moments – and everything available for capture in between.
The IOC is familiar with the problem. In 2008 the body went as far as writing to the Swedish government to do something about Olympic events on The Pirate Bay. By 2012 illegal live streams caused the biggest problems and this time round in Russia the IOC wants to take an even more aggressive approach.
According to a letter obtained by Russian publication Gazeta, the IOC has written to Russian authorities and Olympic-related bodies demanding an extraordinary effort to rid the Internet of unauthorized Olympic content in record time.
The IOC is calling on the organizing committee for the games to create a “rapid response team” with the authority to remove unauthorized streams, links and other content from the Internet “in a few minutes or hours”, not days as is the current norm.
The adoption of a new anti-piracy law earlier in the year is an inadequate mechanism to protect the Olympics, the IOC said, as responses to copyright holder complaints take too long to process. Instead, they have a better idea.
The IOC appears to be suggesting the creation of a ‘blacklist’ of sites where Olympic events and streams are likely to appear without permission. Once on the list the IOC wants the sites to create tools that will “automatically and immediately carry out the removal of unauthorized content.”
Details are unclear, but the IOC also seems to be seeking government-administered punishment for sites that fail to efficiently remove infringing content.
When asked about the IOC’s demands the Ministry of Communications said they had not received a letter and refused to comment on “rumors”. The Olympic Organizing Committee simply refused to comment.
Communications watchdog Roscomnadzor, who would need to be involved in any initiative of this type, said they had not seen the letter but were willing to look at the proposals.
“If at the highest political and legislative level decisions are taken and Roscomnadzor receives the necessary powers, we will study this,” a spokesperson said.
By law, Roscomnadzor currently has the power to block access to any site or service that fails to remove reported copyrighted content or links within 72 hours. To meet the requirements of the IOC, legal adjustments will almost certainly be required.
Speaking with TorrentFreak, TV-focused torrent site EZTV said that they will be distributing torrents of the Olympics as they have done in the past. In their view the games should be an inspiration to everyone, not simply viewed as a money-making exercise.
“The Olympics is about people from all over the world coming together to show their skills and sportsmanship. And the IOC is purely interested in making as much money from broadcasting as possible,” the site told us.
“We think differently, we believe everyone should be able to see these events freely and inspire future sport heroes!”