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Newspapers, La. athletic association fight over photo rights

By The Associated Press

Editor’s note: The Associated Press reported that on Feb. 27, the state athletic association lifted its limits on newspapers' sale of photos from the state girls' high school basketball tournament, allowing photographers to take pictures at will.

NEW ORLEANS — Photographers walked out of last night's girl's high school basketball tournament, rather than sign a form the Louisiana High School Athletic Association was demanding that would limit newspapers' sale of photos from the games.

The dispute is over who controls the photographic rights from the games and if newspapers have the right to resell the game's pictures, said Tommy Henry, commissioner of the association.

"We have a man that has been taking and selling pictures for the tournaments since 1983," Henry said. "Now they want to do that. This is exploitation by the media."

Allowing newspapers to sell copies of its photos would violate the LHSAA's contract with Musemeche Photography, Henry said. To prevent that, photographers were asked to sign a form that said only the photos that physically appear in a newspaper could be sold.

"The issue is not the resale of photos or even the posting of the pictures to our Web site," said Baton Rouge Advocate Executive Editor Carl Redman. "To me the issue is very much who controls the content of our newspaper. Do we control it or does an outside agency?"

Redman likened the LHSAA request to having the Legislature demand that newspapers could only take or publish limited photos of it.

"Obviously we object to this," said Kathy Spurlock, executive editor of The (Monroe) News-Star. "These are high school games, played in a public setting and open to the public. We are the representatives of the public and have a right to cover the event and use our material as we see fit."

"We believe we have the right to decide what to do with our photographs," said Jim Amoss, editor of The Times-Picayune of New Orleans. "In our view, there is no difference whether we choose to publish a photo in print or on the Web."

The dispute over photographic rights has been brewing for at least two years, but came to a head yesterday.

"We were hoping to get a grace period and be able to work this out," said Pam Mitchell-Wagner, executive director of the Louisiana Press Association. "We look at this as a freedom-of-the-press issue. We can't allow anyone to dictate how we cover an event."

Posting pictures to Web sites is a common occurrence, editors across the state said.

"Multimedia is the trendy thing now," said Hammond Daily Star Executive Editor Lil Mirando. "You may only have one picture in the paper, but people know they can find more on the Web site."

For a high school soccer game, the News-Star posted 12 pictures on Friday night, Spurlock said.

Although pictures on Web sites are for sale, editors said there was not much demand.

"The Web site is an extension of the paper," said Rod Richardson, managing editor of The (Shreveport) Times. "What difference does it make if we have pictures there or in the paper?"

Newspapers said they would carry stories without pictures today.

"And we'll run a story letting our readers know why," said Spurlock.


University of Oregon punts plan to limit sports coverage

Athletic director says public outcry, possible legal entanglements led to decision. 08.09.01

NCAA bounces Ky. reporter for blogging during baseball game
Editor defends Brian Bennett's right to real-time reporting during tournament; NCAA spokesman says it's against policy. 06.12.07

Ill. news organizations challenge rules on high school sports
Press association, newspapers file suit seeking access to events, halt to Illinois High School Association restrictions on use of photos, video. 11.05.07

Ill. press, high school group settle dispute over sports photos
News photographers will have full access at sponsored events unless it poses safety hazard, will be able to re-sell photos, video. 04.09.08

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