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Monday, September 25, 2000

Olympic "Web police" sits idle

PIRATE broadcasters using the Internet to distribute unlicensed video footage seem to be staying away from the Olympics, a senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) official said.

Marketing director Michael Payne said a mammoth monitoring operation of the World Wide Web commissioned by the IOC to track Olympic coverage and infringements of broadcast rights had thrown up only about 12 cases since the Sydney Games opened.

"We’ve been pleasantly surprised that everyone has respected the guidelines that have been put in place," Payne told Reuters.

"There have been, may be a dozen cases, since the Games opened and most of them have come from the (broadcast) rights holders. In nearly all cases, it’s simply been a matter of confusion and we’ve sorted it out," he said.


Payne said a handful of renegade Web broadcasters had been tracked down and had agreed to stop showing footage from the Olympics without the IOC having to resort to legal action.

"To the best of my knowledge, everyone has accepted the friendly call," he said. The Internet broadcasts of sporting action at the Games have been effectively banned.

Games broadcasting contracts, which have reaped the IOC $1.3 billion from rights holders in Sydney, prevent companies from sending video or audio signals outside their own country or region.

But the explosion of the Internet, and its global reach, mean anyone with an inexpensive Web camera and access to the Internet can send moving images around the world.

The IOC is using the Sydney Games as a test-bed for how the Olympic movement could exploit the Internet promotionally and, down the road, commercially through the sale of lucrative rights.

"Clearly, the medium is growing in importance and in the Games to come, it will become a vital medium to help broaden the involvement of sports fans," Payne said in an interview.

But he added: "The commercial aspects of it are still some way away... even (assessing the value) three years out is a big guess."

The IOC is using a French-based company, Datops SA, to monitor some 24,000 different sites for how the Olympics are filtering through to the Internet and to track any infringements of its jealously guarded—and money spinning—Olympic symbols.

In July, the IOC joined the US Olympic Committee and the organising committee for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games to file a lawsuit in the USA against more than 1,800 registered Internet domain names misusing Olympic trademarks.

It was the largest action by far against so-called "cyber squatters" who buy up Web site addresses with popular or well-known names.

"If a site is using the Olympic rings in an editorial manner, we’re leaving it," said Payne.

"If they’re using it in a commercial manner and trying to make a profit on the Olympic trademark, then that is something which we are looking at."

The IOC expects some 35 million Internet users to go to the official Games web site, , over the course of the Sydney Olympics, compared with just 2.5 million visitors during the 1998 Winter Olympics at Nagano.

Payne noted that figure was still only less than one per cent of the forecast global television audience of 3.7 billion.

Using the Sydney experience, the IOC will assess the impact of the Internet age on the Olympics and sport at an international conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, on December 4 and 5.

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