Game photos

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A major issue is developing in most every state, including Missouri and Illinois, over who controls photos taken at high school sporting events sanctioned by activities associations such as the Missouri High School Activities Association and the Illinois High School Association.

Getting the most attention is an attempt by the state associations to clamp down on the sales by newspapers of photos taken at sporting events. Thanks to the Internet, it is a fairly simple process to take digital photos, post them online and sell them.

In Illinois, the high school association has hired its own photographer to take photos at state championship games. The Illinois group has refused to give sideline passes to photographers from some -- but not all -- newspapers that won't agree to a ban on selling their own photos. Lawsuits have been filed, and the issues are working their way through the legal process.

While there is nothing wrong with a state association's decision to take its own photos and offer them for sale, trying to restrict newspapers that routinely cover championship games from doing the same thing isn't right. For one thing, these associations are using their authority to create, in effect, a monopoly on photo sales.

This legal wrangling appears to ignore the fact that most everyone who attends a high school championship game has a way of making digital images, either with a camera or a cell phone. Do these associations really think they can keep all these fans from taking photos and, perhaps, selling them?

Both the Illinois High School Association and the Illinois Press Association accuse each other of improperly getting into the commercial-photography business. Let's cut through the legal mumbo-jumbo and concede that they are both right. So what? Ultimately, it will be up to consumers to decide whose photos they want to purchase. Isn't that the way it should be?

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