Lawmakers often overlook the unintended consequences of their actions. Take the London Olympics for example, where the self-declared “first social media Games” could turn decidedly anti-social.
The Brits have pushed an Act through Parliament to ensure the intellectual property rights of the London Olympics are protected.
Nothing unusual about that – it happened in Australia long before Cathy Freeman went anywhere near a naked flame. It’s just part of the price countries pay to hand over a city for a fortnight to the private company called the International Olympics Committee.
The Guardian newspaper reports that the British legislation goes much further than existing copyright protection. Legal opinion is that someone in the London crowd uploading a photo or footage to Facebook could be prosecuted for breaching criminal law.
The Guardian says using “2012” in connection with terms like “London”, “medals”, “sponsors”, “summer”, “gold”, “silver” or “bronze” is another likely breach. An event called the "Great Exhibition 2012" was threatened with legal action over its use of "2012" but it was later withdrawn.
With ambush marketing in mind, Twitter has agreed to work with the London organisers to ban non-sponsors from buying promoted ads with hashtags like #London2012
Back in the years BS (Before Social), the Australian Government was so sensitive to its own legislation that it referred to the 2000 event as “the Sydney Games” and avoided using The O Word in official communications.
Owners of the Olympic Hotel in Sydney’s Moore Park, located a short stumble across the road from a Games venue, were threatened with prosecution unless they changed its name, despite having long known by the O name.
Common sense prevailed and the dogs were called off.
Much of the same will probably apply in London, even if the draconian law looks, sounds and smells like an ass.
It might say on your ticket that you agree not to “license, broadcast or publish video and/or sound recordings, including on social networking websites and the internet".
But does anyone think the Olympic Police are going to knock on the door after you go home and confiscate your smartphone?
Unless you’re working for a non-Olympic sponsor, the PR consequences would be dire.
More on the games and social media here if you're interested (and that's where we borrowed the image.)