SPRINGFIELD, IL - Following last week's shut out of some news photographers from the state's championship basketball games over a dispute with the Illinois High School Association over the "secondary use" of game images, the Illinois Press Photographers Association sent the following letter to Illinois newspaper editors today:
Photojournalists in Illinois often encounter obstacles when covering breaking news, but to have these same difficulties when trying to photograph high school sports is ludicrous.
That is just what happened in November at Memorial Stadium in Champaign-Urbana during the Illinois High School Association State Football Championships. Photojournalists from five Illinois newspapers were blocked at the door, preventing them from documenting this once-in-a-lifetime event for local high school students, some of whom have been working much of their lives toward that game.
The IHSA’s own mission statement declares that it is to serve “member schools by providing leadership for equitable participation in interscholastic athletics and activities that enrich the educational experience.” Unfortunately, it is the IHSA that believes it doesn’t need to abide by the “equitable participation” provision and have chosen to act like bullies on the playground.
For almost as long as newspapers have been publishing photos, they have been selling reprints of their photos. Today, thanks to technology and the Internet, newspapers have been able to offer more photos for sale. This is a boon for the public because they now have access to hundreds of images taken by professional photographers – something that is next to impossible for fans in the stands to achieve. Typically, dozens of professional photojournalists line the sidelines at these championship games, so if Johnny catches that winning touchdown pass, the chances are good that there will be lots of photos taken from many different angles. While the newspapers might use one or two of these photos in their printed pages, many of these images are available to Johnny and his friends and family.
A few years ago, the IHSA started to include rules about selling prints in their sideline shooting rules. Not much attention was paid to the wording since most of us have been shooting these games for so long that we felt we knew what we were doing. Then along came some strange restrictions as to where we could stand and where we were allowed to shoot from. Some of us noticed that while we were being restricted, commercial “event photographers” who were contracted by the IHSA, were being given free rein to shoot from just about anywhere. Going through proper channels, members of the Illinois Press Photographers’ Association voiced their objections to this unequal treatment. The answer from the IHSA was that since they were shooting pictures for the IHSA and selling reprints they could go wherever they wanted. We argued that this was unfair.
Then early in November, the Illinois Press Association filed a lawsuit claiming that the IHSA’s rules that prohibit reselling photos and limiting photographers’ access were unfair. At the judge’s suggestion, the IPA an IHSA tried to resolve their differences. The IPA was sufficiently satisfied with the progress of their talks, so they withdrew their request for an injunction.
Skip ahead to the state football championship games.
Even though the IHSA assured everyone involved that no immediate action would be taken against any publications regarding these matters, five photojournalists showed up at Memorial Stadium and walked away without any sideline photos from the games.
The IHSA says the papers were allowed to cover these games, but that’s just a spin. While the reporters could sit in the press box and write their stories, the photographers could only sit in the stands or in the press box. They could not shoot photos with their regular equipment since they were prohibited from taking their long lenses into the stands.
Meanwhile, dozens of photographers from other newspapers were working the sidelines; many of them sell reprints from the games. The IHSA said they couldn’t catch everyone, or is it that they merely wanted to make examples out of a select few?
There have been calls from across the nation for an outright boycott of high school sports. For many papers in Illinois, this is their sports sections’ bread and butter. Imagine what the sports sections would be without high school sports coverage. Any way you look at it, the photos that we take on a day-to-day basis are some of the only publicity your sons and daughters will ever have.
If you are concerned that the IHSA is doing a disservice to your children and the community, we suggest that you contact Marty Hickman, the IHSA executive director.
Scott Strazzante, president
Mark Black, vice president
Steve Warmowski, treasurer
Rob Dicker, IHSA liaison
On behalf of the members of the Illinois Press Photographers Association
The Illinois Press Association and the Illinois High School Association have been in a dispute over the sale of game images on newspapers' Web sites. IPA sued IHSA over the issue in early November in an effort to overturn IHSA's rules that limited access to school sporting events and the use of images taken at those events.
IHSA also contracted with a private company, Visual Image Photography Inc., for "exclusive and unlimited access to IHSA tournament locations and photo opportunities." At the same time, as a condition of receiving a media pass, newspapers were required to sign an agreement limiting their own access and the "secondary use" of photographs that goes beyond the pictures being printed in the traditional newspaper.
IPA and IHSA were supposedly trying to reach an out of court resolution to the dispute when the IHSA surprisingly shut out photographers from at least four newspapers last weekend at the state high school football championships, telling the photographers that their papers were not in compliance with IHSA rules on secondary image use and that their editors had been informed of that. The editors of those papers, as well as IPA, say they were never informed of that by the IHSA.