International Olympic Committee Tries to Shut Down Olympic Photos On Flickr

IOC Cease and Desist
Note: An update on this story here.

I was disappointed to hear from Duncan Riley over at the Inquisitr that it looks like the International Olympics Committee is playing hardball with people over photos of the Olympics on Flickr.

Duncan points us to the letter at left sent from the IOC’s Director of Legal Affairs, Howard M. Strupp, to photographer Richard Giles. The letter is a legal threat against Giles for hosting images of the Olympics on his Flickrstream in what the IOC feels is a violation of the terms and conditions of his ticket. You can read a large size version of the BS letter that the IOC sent to Giles here.

This really sucks.

The International Olympic Committee is being terribly proprietary with images of their events here and I hope this cease and desist letter backfires on them. I’m equally concerned that the IOC would consider use on Flickr as something other than private use. Flickr is a non-commercial website (by the definition of the terms and conditions of the site, unless approval is received from Flickr for commercial use) and a place for people to share photos with their family, friends and yes the world. That the IOC would go after non-commercial use is disturbing.

What’s even worse, it appears that the IOC is trying to argue with Giles that even using the *word* Olympics in his photostream is somehow some sort of violation.

I hope that the EFF or some other organization can come to the aid of Giles and I hope that he doesn’t end up backing down against the lawyers at the IOC. I’m not sure whoever initiated this action at the IOC but they should probably be fired. Flickr (as well as other online publications) represent a wonderful place for the IOC to generate free publicity over their games. The Olympics really belong to all of us. They are typically associated with goodwill from all nations over the world. To taint this image by being hostile with photographers is just stupid.

Personally as a photographer, learning of this news will ensure that I never attend the Olympics myself. Why would I want to go to an event where they use their money grubbing attack dog lawyers after the event to attack you for sharing positive images of your experience non-commercially with others. The IOC should issue an apology to Giles and tell him that he can leave his photos up and publicly state that non-commercial use of Olympic photography is both allowed and encouraged.

Thanks Duncan for the heads up.

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  1. lee says:

    No doubt this has to do with THIS image from him. he was asked to change the license so it could be used on wikipedia, which in turn got it lifted and used in an article HERE.

    No idea if Mr. Giles made money on that article, but he must have contacted them because he wasn’t properly credited, but now he is. If he granted them a license to use the image them he would be violating the rules on photography at the Games.

    Whether you agree with their stated policy is another matter entirely, but if he is licensing the photos to 3rd parties, then he broke the rules and isn’t the victim you portray him to be.

    The letter, FWIW, does not appear to be asking him to take down the images from his stream, but to cease ‘distribution and licensing’ those images.

    I’m all for being allowed to photograph sporting events (it’s why I go to MLB baseball games 10-20 times a year, but almost never go to NFL football games), but selling and/or licensing those images without consent is not the same thing.

  2. […] morning on Twitter I saw an article showcasing a cease and desist order the IOC sent to someone who posted their photos online to […]

  3. Anonymous says:


  4. Jason says:

    I interpreted the IOC letter in the same way that Lee did above. The problem was that Mr. Giles licensed his Olympics photos to third parties and may have made some money off of those photos.

  5. […] International Olympic Committee Tries to Shut Down Olympic Photos On Flickr | Thomas Hawk Digital Co…: What’s even worse, it appears that the IOC is trying to argue with Giles that even using the […]

  6. Kelly Gray says:

    I wonder if the IOC is aware of section 32.2(1)b of the Canadian copyright act?

    32.2 (1) It is not an infringement of copyright

    (b) for any person to reproduce, in a painting, drawing, engraving, photograph or cinematographic work

    (i) an architectural work, provided the copy is not in the nature of an architectural drawing or plan, or

    Found at

  7. Aaron says:


    I’m so weary of “Thomas Hawks'” rants about Flickr. When I don’t like a business, I stop doing business with them. Period.

    He doesn’t do that. “Thomas”, just move your photos somewhere else and stop complaining about them. Flickr isn’t here to serve the public good regardless of what you want them to be. It’s backed by a business who’s best interests may not be yours. You can take your money someplace else.

  8. James says:

    Another one ….

    I am like you as one time before you were not aloud to take pictures in a wax museum. So when I was in NY a few years back I went to Tussaud’s and asked them could I take pictures inside and they said yes as if they said NO like hell will I pay them $35US to go inside and not get any memories of my visit
    Flickr is non profit site people that post there images here are not looking for $$ if so they wound’t be posting them here at all.

  9. Thomas Hawk says:

    Aaron, What makes you think this post is a rant against Flickr?

  10. James says:

    I wasn’t ranting about flickr??? just taking pictures in a museum where you pay to get in??

    Another one is the story you mention about Disney Museum you can pay to get in but no pictures!

  11. James says:

    OPPS it been a long day Tom … I just seen you were referring to Aaron… you can delete both reply’s I just had flickr threatened me again so I may not last the day there before they delete me.

    but I copied all their e-mais 🙂

  12. Thomas Hawk says:

    No problem James. I’ve got a couple of “rants” going on right now 😉 Certainly Flickr’s censorship of your images is one against Flickr. I’m not sure why Aaron thinks that this post is objecting to something at Flickr though. As far as I’m aware Flickr has not censored the photographers images here. My beef here is more with the IOC.

  13. Ray K says:

    I think the IOC even wanted to change the name of the Olympic Peninsula in WA since the games are in Vancouver BC this year. I know there was some issues with them over some of the company names here. Little overboard, kinda like flickr censors, common sense isn’t common anymore.

  14. Doug The RiP(per) says:

    They seem to have balls of Olympian proportion.

  15. Doug The RiP(per) says:

    And yes the problem here is clearly the IOC. This has nothing to do with Flicr. Do some people just see RED when Thomas posts on any topic and flickr is mentioned.

    Apparently the IOC is also pissed that US television wanted to have a deal of some sort that may compete with their “exclusive” IOC TV feed. The details were on the news today.

  16. Gary Denness says:

    I agree with your points, taking them on face value. But I have one question….is Flickr really a non commercial sharing enterprise now that Getty has a deal with them? Surely photographers included in the Getty deal are effectively putting their images in the shop window for sale? And if so, how would a third party (let’s say the IOC to keep on topic) know which of these images are potentially going to be used by Getty, and which aren’t?

  17. heikkipekka says:

    First comment is interesting. If his photos were used in other publication I understand IOC has to do something about it as it clearly isn’t just private use of his photos anymore.

  18. whocares says:

    looks like Thomas Hawk needs more attention!

  19. clickblog says:

    Olimpiadi contro i fotoamatori…

    Il comitato olimpico internazionale per mano del suo direttore delle questioni legali, Howard M. Strupp, ha mandato una lettera ad un fotoamatore che aveva pubblicato delle foto delle olimpiadi su Flickr.
    Nel documento viene persino fatto notare che …

  20. […] ticket. You can read a large size version of the BS letter that the IOC sent to Giles here. Source: The legal issues raised by the C&D are mixed on a couple of fronts. The IOC has zero standing […]

  21. […] distributing of images taken by amateur  photographers at the Olympics!  There’s tons of opinion and outragethroughout the Interwebs about this issue.  I’d love to hear your comments on  the […]

  22. ksuwildkat says:

    The IOC has a very expansive vision of their power. For years the US Military used to hold an annual “Language Olympics” where military linguists competed. Some time after 2001 its existence got media attention and after the 2004 competition, DoD received and complied with a C&D from the IOC. I wish they had challenged it. Im sure there is a huge collection of “prior art” that would knock down their claim on the word.

    This is the kind of arrogance and stupidity that spends goodwill. Declaring war on your customers is never a good thing. I doubt you will see the NFL or MLB make the same mistake and they are straight up businesses.

  23. […] photographer and CEO of Zooomr, wrote a response on my Flickr photo and an article on his own blog: International Olympic Committee Tries to Shut Down Olympic Photos On Flickr. He also sent an email to several people at the IOC suggesting their request was unfair, and would […]