Dec. Newsletter

Be willing to fight your high school association over photo reprints Dec. 24, 2008

 Challenge in Illinois benefited newspapers

Don’t like your state high school association’s current policy on photo reprint sales

Toby Carrig

from championship events?

There’s a chance your opinion can help craft compromise.

As state associations are finding out how these policies – and their enforcement and ramifications – play out, restrictions already on the books about selling photos from online galleries taken at state tournaments can be negotiated into wording agreeable to the high school associations and newspapers.

That happened in Illinois earlier this year and has been taking place over the past three years in Missouri.

More than half of the state associations that have media policies on their Web sites or responded to e-mails and phone calls seeking policies have restrictions on the sales of photos published in newspaper Web galleries.

The Illinois High School Association recently moved from the list of state associations having restrictions to allowing sales, as did the Rhode Island Interscholastic League. The Missouri State High School Activities Association may officially follow suit, though it has no printed policy in place this year since going to online credentialing.

Be willing to fight your high school association over photo reprints
State-by-State High School Photo Policies

The IHSA and the Illinois Press Association agreed in April to court-sanctioned settlement allowing newspapers unrestricted sale of photos from Web sites while the IHSA still may contract with an official photographer.

MSHSAA’s current contract with a photo vendor ends after this school year, and an organization spokesman said this fall it is possible wording in the next contract will be friendlier for newspapers. MSHSAA already has made changes since first implementing its restrictions five years ago.

The Missouri Press Association has been pursuing the issue with MSHSAA, which in the past two years formed a media advisory panel to discuss that and other concerns.

The MPA’s proposed wording, which was presented to MSHSAA in late 2007, has similarities to the compromise reached this past April between the Illinois Press Association and Illinois High Schools Association.

MSHSAA has backed off some from restrictions it imposed in 2003-04. Wording on the hard copies of media credential request forms changed prior to the 2007-08 school year, no longer prohibiting the secondary use of images but instead asking for advance notification. Enforcement of the policy was not easy, a MSHSAA official admitted. MSHSAA now has online credential form that includes no wording on this area, leaving the policy open to interpretation. Our paper, the Southeast Missourian, and others around the state, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Stltoday.com, have posted photo galleries that allow our readers to purchase reprints.

In addition to Illinois, high profile battles have taken place on this issue in Wisconsin and Louisiana.

The issue was among those on the list of workshops – "Maintaining Control of Tournament Photographs" – for the National Federation of High School State Association’s annual summer meeting in Washington, D.C., earlier this year, along with "How to Determine Legitimate Media for Credentialing."

Representatives of the Associated Press Sports Editors, seeking to discuss the issue

and assist states in policy development, asked to attend but were not invited. I worked with John Cherwa, chair of APSE’s legal affairs committee, to draft a letter distribution at the conference. The letter also was sent by request to some state associations during the e-mail portion of this survey.

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association announced earlier this year it would not enforce its policy restricting sales by newspapers. WIAA executive director Doug Chickering said in a panel discussion with the Wisconsin Newspapers Association in January, "Let other people fight over rights and we’ll find out what they are," according to an item on the WNA Web site.

Newspapers in Louisiana objected during the spring of 2007 to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s requirement to sign a form limiting resales to printed images.

Mitch Small, marketing and promotions director of the LHSAA, said the organization implemented that policy because some media outlets were posting hundreds of photos for sale with minimal editorial coverage of state championship events. The state association does have a contract with photography firm.

While the form no longer exists, the association’s credentials still limit sales to printed photos, and spokesperson Becky French said enforcement of the policy would be at the director’s discretion if it came to the association’s attention.

Of those states contacted by phone, several mentioned the enforcement problems as a reason for changing or not developing policy.

"We restrict it," said Steve Figueroa of the Georgia High School Association, "but we don’t kill ourselves fighting a battle we can’t win. We’re not going to spend association money suing the AJC for selling photos."

Joe Altieri, director of marketing and media relations for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, said that organization, which utilizes tournament photographers, backed off attempts to regulate photo sales when the media protested. But the association, in a sentiment echoed by many, did seek to have more control over what organizations had access to their events.

Stephanie Ford, director of marketing for the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, is in the process of developing a policy, which she hopes to have completed soon. The association has no photo vendor, but her concern is protecting the CIC and its student-athletes in an era when there are more media utilizing more to cover state championship events.

Of the 44 state associations contacted – six did not return e-mails or phone calls – 16 did not have policies or did not currently have restrictions on sales from Web galleries.

Others ranged greatly in how extensive the policies were. Twenty-one states had policies restricting photo sales or seeking advance consent, while four states had some restrictions usually related to the number of photos in a gallery.

Three state associations prohibited the marketing of photo sales at state tournament events but allowed sales by newspapers via Web photo galleries.

Of the state association’s limiting the number of photos in a gallery, the Michigan High School Athletic Association has a policy that outlined that number as no more than 25 percent of the number of images used in a gallery from a regular season game. In addition, the policy says content must be made available at no cost to the MHSAA.

Similarly, Nebraska School Activities Association spokesman Jim Angele said his organization has worked with the state’s press association to develop a policy for the sale of images that are published in print or with the story on the Web site. He added that papers have been discriminating in publishing only 15 or 20 images per game rather than "their entire memory cards."

"The photo editors/managers that I have talked with over the years consider the images on the photographer’s memory card and then laptop to be their ‘reporter’s notebook,’ which they said, at the time, they would never publish or post," Angele wrote in an e-mail.

But this runs somewhat contrary to what newspapers can do on the Internet, which is use the limitless space of the World Wide Web for the material in a reporter’s notebook that may not make the print edition due to space limitations. For example, the Southeast Missourian/Semoball.com online photo gallery from the state cross country meet included multiple photos of 36 different local participants at the event.

Newspapers haven’t been without blame in the need for policy development.

Mike Colbrese, executive director of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, mentioned an incident that came to his attention when a newspaper posted for sale through its Web site a photo taken by the state association’s official vendor. Someone had purchased the photo and submitted it to the newspaper.

Colbrese said his association’s policy had been in effect for a number of years but has not always been enforced well.

He said he has been in discussions with Allied Newspapers of Washington and plans to have more discussions on the topic.

"If I can help it, I don’t want the battle," he said. "I’ve got better things to do."

Colbrese is open to creative solutions but also sees the importance of protecting the contracts the association has with those who pay to be a part of the championship events – just as concert promoters try to protect their interests from those selling knockoff T-shirts outside the venue. He wonders if rights fees and agreements may be necessary.

On the other hand, the Rhode Island Interscholastic League, recently did away with its restrictions and its vendor agreement because it was making about $200 a year, said executive director Tom Mezzanotte.

"It wasn’t worth the trouble," he said.

That was echoed by Mike McCall, communications specialist for the Virginia High School League, which has no restrictions on photo sales from newspaper Web sites.

"I can’t imagine how much money anybody is making," McCall said. "It’s a service to readers, who are probably our athletes’ parents."

Toby Carrig is a former third vice president of APSE. You can reach him via e-mail at tobycarrig@yahoo.com.


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