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IOC sets out updated Internet rights rules

LONDON (Reuters) - Web sites will be able to carry an unlimited amount of photos and news articles on the Beijing Olympics -- and those in Australia can even show short video clips for the first time -- as part of new media guidelines.

A view of the opening of the IOC Coordination Commission meeting in Beijing April 1, 2008. REUTERS/Minoru Iwasaki/Pool

Two international sporting events were hit by rows with media groups in 2007 over major rights disputes, but updated rules from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for Beijing released on Tuesday appeared far more relaxed.

Under the rules, media organizations can use their own Web sites to carry written and photographic coverage of the Games as long as it is for normal journalistic and editorial use.

“The Internet is an important medium for the communication and promotion of sport and the Olympic Movement,” the IOC said in the guidelines.

“The IOC understands that media organizations have integrated this medium in their business and will be feeding their own websites with Olympic-themed content to target the online audience and to better serve fans.”

“Bona fide” news organizations will be allowed to broadcast via the Internet all or a portion of news conferences that take place in the Media Press Centre with a time delay of 30 minutes.

But the majority of sites will not be able to carry any other video or audio clips because this is covered by intellectual property rights granted to licensed rights-holders.

OLYMPICS FIRST

This will not be the case in Australia, however.

In what is a first for Olympics coverage, Internet sites in Australia will be able to show short videos online due to an agreement between Seven Network and the IOC.

Under the deal, non-official sites will be allowed to show three minutes of Olympic events a day, in 60 second clips, but will have to “geoblock” their sites so they cannot be seen by Internet users outside Australia.

Kevan Gosper, Australia’s senior IOC member, said in the Australian newspaper that other countries could be expected to follow once they learn of the agreement.

“It is a fairly significant development,” he said. “The IOC has, for a long time, been at the forefront of supporting both the rights of the official rights holders and fair access to news about the Olympics for media around the world.”

The rules are very different to those initially set down for the 2007 Rugby World Cup and a cricket Test match between Australia and Sri Lanka.

The International Rugby Board tried to impose restrictions on media, limiting photos and video on the Internet, prompting leading international news agencies and a 40-strong world news media coalition to boycott the build-up to the World Cup.

An agreement was reached hours before the opening match.

In the case of the cricket, Reuters, Associated Press and Agence France-Presse boycotted the first Test in November before Cricket Australia dropped a request that media pay for the right to distribute photographs from the event.

Reporting by Kate Holton, editing by Ken Ferris

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