Olympic censorship, Olympic interference, the “A Rose by Any Other Name” edition

One final note on the whole CBC-IOC debacle. The two main criticisms I’ve heard of my article on the CBC’s problematic relationship with the Olympics were that I didn’t show that the IOC was interfering with CBC News’ reporting, and that this wasn’t really a case of censorship. On the first point, stopping the news from being broadcast is interference in the workings of the network. Furthermore, I maintain that because the CBC’s actions are so contrary to what we should expect of an independent news organization, it’s a fair question to wonder where the commercial aspects of the CBC-IOC relationship ends and its journalism begins.

The second point actually brings us back to the main focus of this blog, copyright (yay!). “Censorship” is a loaded word, and I don’t use it lightly. It’s also one of those things that the bad guys tend to do, it’s never something that we do. So people tend to react badly when the word is directed at “us.” It’s irrational, if understandable.

There’s also some confusion about what exactly should be classified as censorship. The common perception of censorship is that it involves the blocking of information for political or moral reasons. Most people are less comfortable with the idea that commercial agreements, backed by trademark or copyright claims, can lead to censorship. But whether information is blocked for moral, political or commercial reasons, the effect is exactly the same. There is no material difference between Singapore, say, blocking The Economist, in whole or in part, and the CBC blocking its Radio 1 livestream. In both cases, people are prevented from accessing the blocked information. The only difference is the justification: political in Singapore, commercial with the CBC. In both cases, it’s censorship, and we should call it by its name.

Oh, and that the news is still (mostly) available through other means is immaterial: Just because I can get around, say, Chinese censorship with a VPN doesn’t mean that it’s not censorship.

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