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IR Insider is a production of NYU's International Relations Society. Our goal is to explain and discuss issues in IR in an engaging and thought-provoking fashion. We are written by students, for students, about issues students care about. 

New Olympic Figure Skating Rule Allows Music with Lyrics

After the 2014 Olympics, the International Skating Union changed their rules to allow music with lyrics in figure skating, meaning athletes have been using songs by Beyonce, Eminem, Ed Sheeran, and other recognizable artists in the competitions during the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

Athletes have mentioned some different benefits and effects they feel this new rule will have on their sport, such as the meaning that the lyrics of their song choices can add to their performance. The higher energy of pop songs can also accentuate the athleticism displayed in figure skating performances; while it can be considered an art form as well, the energy from the music can help show the incredible power and strength of the athletes’ skating. But some skaters, mainly from older generations, object to using lyrics because they feel it can simplify the meaning of skating by having specific lyrics that overshadow the message of the performance.

Figure skating is also coming more into the public's attention by using music viewers are familiar with. Viewers and fans on social media comment on music choices, causing the sport to gain more exposure.

 Photo by Geoff Robins (NY Times)

Photo by Geoff Robins (NY Times)

Using pop music by current artists has also brought up questions about music copyright laws and how these artists are being compensated for having their music used in the Olympics.

According to Steve Winogradsky, a lawyer specializing in music licensing, the performing right (a right to perform music in public) covers the Olympic Games because they are considered to be live events, even with slight taping delays from NBC broadcasting events at a different time than they occur. Under this right, no other permissions are needed to broadcast or perform the music in public settings.

With the addition of lyrics comes a more explicit opportunity for the skaters to make a political statement with their performances; however, this hasn't been commented on much in regards to these Olympic Games. Some have commented on bringing a message of hope for the future, something all viewers would welcome. However, this new rule also opens the door for the skaters to express more of their personal beliefs through their music choices and performances in the future.