NBC says Leslie Jones can continue her popular Olympics commentaries — blames third party for takedowns

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Former “SNL” cast member Leslie Jones will be able to continue to offer her colorful commentary on the Olympics after NBC blamed a “third party” for flagging video clips she posted to social media.

Jones started her unofficial commentaries in 2016 and NBC even brought her to the 2018 Winter Olympics as a guest.

She picked up with the 2022 Winter Olympics but quickly ran into issues of her video clips being flagged and deleted. She posted a tweet Feb. 7, 2022, saying “they” block her videos and that she’s “tired of fighting them.”

Jones’ clips include NBC footage along with her own commentary in the background.

What’s particularly interesting is that Jones is a former family member of the NBC family. At one point overnight, reports surfaced that NBC had asked Jones to stop posting her commentaries.

NBC has responded, however, saying that the takedown requests and flags were the result of a “third party error” and did not come directly from NBC.

The International Olympic Committee and Olympic Broadcasting Services use a third party company to monitor, flag and remove copyrighted Olympic content that shows up on social media and video sharing sites.

Like other content owners, they also rely on “content matching” technology to find clips posted online and flag them for removal or review.

NBC is known to have some of the strictest rules governing video footage of the Olympics, mainly to help protest its $7.75 billion investment in the TV rights to the games.

Non-NBC stations and networks are prohibited from airing video highlights until after NBC completes its coverage of the previous day early the following morning.

While most sporting events sell broadcast rights on an exclusive basis, it’s common practice for other news and sports stations and networks to simply record the game as it happens and use the best clips on their own reports as needed, while crediting the source network.

Given that most of these outlets would be considered bona fide news outlets and only short clips are used after the game has been made available publicly to at least part of the country, it’s widely considered a clear case of “fair use” of copyright.

Even using Olympics clips would likely fall under fair use, but NBC and other rights holding broadcasters, along with the IOC and OBS have held on to the rule with what many consider heavy handed enforcement and legal threats.

Jones, while not necessarily fitting the definition of a news outlet, is still providing commentary while also modifying the original content, which likely would be considered fair use as well (at least outside the eyes of the IOC).

The results of events can’t exactly be kept secret, so non-RHB media outlets are fairly free to report those as they become available; another common way around the highlights restriction is to use archive footage or still photos.