What do Olympics and DRMs have in common?

Freedom of speech is so important, it is fundamental to freedom in a society.  The threats to freedom of speech come in many shapes – some from government (like the Canadian Human Rights’ Commissions and similar organizations), some from religious leaders, others from corporate interests.

After all – he who controls what and how ideas are communicated has a great amount of control of what and how people think.  And how they spend their money.  Power and money – it’s that crass.

John Perry Barlow wrote, in an article The Economy of Ideas which appeared in Wired in 1994:

The greatest constraint on your future liberties may come not from government but from corporate legal departments laboring to protect by force what can no longer be protected by practical efficiency or general social consent.

Barlow was speaking of things which we have all seen to happen.  From DRM laws, which are based on the idea of ‘every customer is guilty of being a potential pirate, don’t bother with a defence’, to some serious weight being thrown around by the Olympic committees, we are experiencing true and real erosion of our freedom of speech and expression with the sole aim to further corporate interests.

Don’t think so?

If someone from ‘the government’ tried to control what people wore to a sporting event, we would scream ‘censorship’.  Yet, Olympic organizers get away with it – if your T-shirt displays a logo of a non-sponsor, you are asked to remove it, wear it inside out, or – I know this happened at the Athens games – you are handed an official Olympic ‘logo cover’ thingy you have to stick over top of your ‘unapproved’ logo.

This is all in the name of ‘protecting their sponsors’!

Want to drink water from a non-sponsor’s bottle?  Not at the Olympics….

Is your hotel, near the Olympic venue – and visible from it, not a sponsor?  Well, then its name will have to be covered up during the games by the official Olympic ‘sign cover’.  (In Beijing, all logos, even on water taps and toilets, from non-sponsors were covered up by sticky tape.)

And we all know how much the IOC is intent on ‘protecting’ freedom of speech from the nice deal they struck with the Chinese about censoring all ‘non-sports relevant’ internet sites.  Their attitude is best exemplified by this answer, given by BOCOG speaker Sun Weide, when asked why access to all sites about Falun Gong religion….keep in mind, the question was why was the access censored:

“I would remind you that Falun Gong is an evil, fake religion which has been banned by the Chinese government.”

But all this is just a tip of the ice-berg.

The IOC – and its various local minions – have been busy little beavers indeed.  If you think the Beijing one (BOCOG) was in Communist country and therefore much more oppressive than most, think again.  Look at what is already happening in preparation for the Olympic Games in Vancouver (VANOC) in 2010!

  1. Bits of the Canadain National Anthem are being TRADEMARKED by the Vancouver organizers.
  2. Other words, like ‘winter’, ‘2010’, ‘games’, ‘medal’, ‘gold’ and many more are also being trademarked by VANOC. 

Usually, these would be just too general to be registered – but that does not worry the Olympic committee.  While back, they got a law passed (I understand that there is a similar law in the USA), Bil C-47, which makes it OK…

You may think that it is really just meant to protect the sponsors, that the IOC would not abuse this to hassle legitimate businesses, right?  You might want to discuss that with the many businesses that have the word ‘Olympic’ in their name – even Greek restaurants, in Greece…or ones on ‘Olympic peninsula’ in North America.  They might be able to explain why they keep receiving letters from the IOC lawyers, telling them they are in violation of a trademark…

Freedom of speech indeed… 

From DRM laws which assume all of us are lawbreakers and must be handcuffed (digitally) lest we steal what we see, greedy corporate interests, to corrupt, money and power grubbing international organizations, we are increasingly finding our freedoms eroded, one little bit at a time.

And isn’t it a coincidence that both the ‘Olympic marks’ Bill C-47, which allows unprecendented powers of censorship to the Olympic Committee, and the ‘movie piracy’ Bill C-59 both received royal assent on the same day?