As it turns out, Michael-Phelps-fist-pump-dot-gif will not be coming to your Twitter feed this month.
As part of the IOC’s official broadcast rules, the organization has banned the use of Olympic video in gifs, Vines and other un-authorized forms. Additionally, attendees will not be allowed to stream events on Periscope, Meerkat, Facebook Live or any similar platform. Basically, the IOC wants you to watch the Games on a network that paid big bucks for broadcast rights or not at all.
Olympic Material must not be broadcast on interactive services such as “news active” or “sports active” or any other related Video on Demand services, which would allow the viewer to make a viewing choice within a channel and to thereby view Olympic Material at times and programs other than when broadcast as part of a News Program as set out in Clause 1 above. Additionally, the use of Olympic Material transformed into graphic animated formats such as animated GIFs (i.e. GIFV), GFY, WebM, or short video formats such as Vines and others, is expressly prohibited.
Over the years we’ve seen American sports leagues take different tacts regarding the use of gifs and other unauthorized reproduction of images and video. The NBA is lenient about internet users creating gifs or Vines, figuring the sport benefits from having clips of cool dunks spreading through social media. MLB, on the other hand, is more restrictive, limiting gifs to those produced in-house by MLB.com.
Typically, when an organization chooses to police distribution of its content on social media, it will report posts or accounts and have them taken down or suspended.
According to Tech Crunch, the anti-gif language has been added since the Sochi Games in 2014, with the IOC apparently deciding now to crack down. Hopefully either NBC or the Olympics will do its best to get content online quickly after it has aired because re-watching (or catching up on) important moments is a big part of sports consumption in 2016. It fuels the conversation and keeps the event relevant across platforms. In a world where everything is a meme, the IOC risks being left behind.