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Author Topic: Sports Photography Legal Issues  (Read 17437 times)
sao366
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« on: September 03, 2006, 10:10:22 AM »
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I have been shooting youth sporting events ever since my son has been playing sports...not only do I shoot my son but I shoot several games and hundreds of kids, in several different sports; baseball, football, basketball...just this past year, I set up a web site and have started selling photos to who ever wants them.  On a side note, things have been going very well and I sell hundreds of pictures...but I have been approached and harrassed by a local photographer.  He states that I can not take pictures and that I can not sell the pictures that I take.  One statement that he has made is that he has "the contract to shoot these games"...for which I say is a crock of S@$%&...Legally, what are my rights and what do I have to do to protect myself, is it legal what I am doing?...I am extremely courteous and respectful of those who choose to not have their child photographed but I have developed a good relationship with hundreds of parents who like the service that I provide...I believe the main reason for the harrassment is that I provide a better product at a better price...Thank you for your time
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mikeseb
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« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2006, 04:18:24 PM »
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This kind of thing burns me up. I'm no lawyer, but I've read up on this a bit as I have had a brush with a similar situation. So don't take this as legal gospel.

My take after researching it is this: if the games are held on private property (like a private school or privately owned athletic field) then the owners of that property can decide who takes pictures there, and can give an "exclusive" photo contract to any clown dumb enough to sign one.  In order to do this they'd have to exclude everyone except our contracted lensman. Are they going to prohibit every parent with a camera from shooting there, or ban all cameras? Not likely. So it seems unenforceable to me, as the schmucks who offered and signed the contract should have known.

OTOH,  if you are on public property (eg municipal park or athletic field) I don't see how they can stop you from shooting pictures, or from selling them if you wish. You probably better make sure you have whatever local business licenses you need, however; this is one place the guy could cause trouble for you, I think.

I know of yet another similar situation where the "contract" photographer for a private-school / church league that played its games on municipal spaces actually acted inappropriately towards the mother of one of the kids in the league he photographed; ripped the parents off with exorbitant prices for the images, fostering many complaints; and harrassed my friend--a much superior photographer with a kid in the league--who was shooting and selling photos to all the league parents around the jerk's exclusive. My friend drove him out of that segment of the business by taking better photos for decent prices.

This sort of behavior gives all photographers a bad name. Treat people badly and you get what you deserve. Give them superior products and services and you will--and should--prosper.

I think you should tell the guy, politely, to jump in the lake.
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michael sebastian
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« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2006, 06:34:45 PM »
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I'd chat with the league or whoever has granted the "exclusivity" to learn the limitations on the contract with him.  If their perceptions seem out of line, check with the owners/managers of the facility.  As Mike notes, if it's public space the only thing they can deny you is any claim that you are the "official" photographer for the league.  In our long experience good products and services, professionalism and grace, fair prices and sensitivity will win out over their alternatives in every case.
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John Camp
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« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2006, 07:53:31 PM »
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I'd also be careful about selling them to anyone but the parents, and then only for personal use. If you sell them to somebody for commercial use, the kids could have a claim against you -- unless they (or their parents acting for them) sign a model release. But if it's for artistic or personal use, taken from a public place, there's no problem.

There are a number of causes of the growing problems of taking photographs in public -- the perception that there's a pederast under every bush, taking photos for salacious purposes; the perception that terrorists couldn't blow up a building unless they first had a picture of it, even when, say, postcards of the same view are sold to anyone who wants one; the fact that we live in a celebrity culture, and there are constant stories about celebrities trying to control access to, and use of, their images, and if celebrities can do it, why not Joe Blow?; a weird sense that photographs may violate privacy in a way that simple looking does does not -- a couple may be seriously necking and petting in public, with a parade of adults, teenagers and children going by, goggling in amazement or disgust or deep personal intersst, but if somebody takes a picture, their privacy has been violated.

Also, if there's money being made, there's a general sense that everybody should get a cut. That's what's causing your problem. Who gave the people who signed the "contract" with the "official photographer" the rights to any images? Thge parents? Not if they're happy to buy pictures from you. So they're selling something that they don't own. If, however, they rent a playing field, they may restrict your access to the non-public parts of it (that's how the NFL keeps every amateur photographer with an SLR out of the end zone, even in a public stadium.)

JC
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Nill Toulme
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« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2006, 08:38:20 PM »
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If you really provide a better product at a better price then you shouldn't have any trouble competing with that photog for next year's contract, instead of just waltzing in and trying to undercut a guy who's trying to put bread on his table.

For some other views on this sort of thing, most of them level-headed and professional, you might like to look at this thread.

Nill
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sao366
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« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2006, 09:11:42 AM »
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Thank you for all the great advice. It has extremely helpfull and I now have a better understanding of the situation.
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mikeseb
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« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2006, 11:21:17 AM »
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If you really provide a better product at a better price then you shouldn't have any trouble competing with that photog for next year's contract, instead of just waltzing in and trying to undercut a guy who's trying to put bread on his table.

For some other views on this sort of thing, most of them level-headed and professional, you might like to look at this thread.

Nill
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[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=75502\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Nill, thanks, I checked out the archived thread you linked. Sounds like the issues are framed there much as they have been here.

Reasonable people can disagree about what is "right" here. Legally it's another matter, as John and Hank I think addressed in a more temperate fashion than I did.

It all depends on the legal relationships among the parties. Public property, all bets are off, and the photographer should have had the sense to inform him/herself about this before signing the "contract." Private property, another matter entirely. Seems like in the latter case, whoever owns the property would have to ban ALL photography other than that done by the "official" shooters.

The only way one can be "undercut" is if s/he does not provide the value, in the eye of the customer, that another provides in rendering a service or supplying a good--"value" encompassing price, service, quality, and intangibles that make one provider more attractive to customers than another.

Depending on an "exclusive" contract of uncertain legal validity/enforceability to accomplish what one can't on the merits is what is "wrong". Trying to coerce customers to purchase a product/service they'd judge inferior to another, if given a choice, is what's "wrong".

Best to you, Nill.
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michael sebastian
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« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2006, 03:35:12 PM »
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Public property, all bets are off, and the photographer should have had the sense to inform him/herself about this before signing the "contract."

Hi Michael,

My first post in this forum, but quite a regular elsewhere.  

I'm a sports photographer of many decades and in my area (yours may be different) the sports leagues RENT the fields from the city.  This is no longer public property during the rental period. They have every right to control who does what on property that they are renting, provided that it does not violate any laws. Parents who have been verbally abusive to officials have been banned from the parks during games.  If another photographer showed up competing against me without getting the OK from the league, they would be escorted off by the police.  This rarely becomes a problem, but as mentioned in the other posts, it's worried parents that are a concern.

I had one league I deal with on T&I, contract another photographer for action shots, which I rarely do.  The other photographer got blasted for showing up on the sidelines and taking shots of the kids.  Apparently it almost came to calling 911.  Parents have every right to be scared when a stranger shows up with a camera.  We must all be sensitive to the new reality of internet fear.

Doug
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mikeseb
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« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2006, 04:16:58 PM »
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Doug, yours is an interesting perspective in this discussion.

In that case, those paying the freight get to call the tune. I can imagine that some parents are livid,if indeed the organizers have prevented them from taking photos. Or maybe they just escort away the guys who look like they know what they are doing!

I was shooting this weekend at an extreme skate park here with a Contax 645, a Kodak back, and a 350mm lens. This massive and wholly inappropriate (for sports shooting) rig guarantees that at least three people will skate over, ask me what magazine I'm with, and offer to show off their best moves. One little kid asked me once if he could be on TV, too!

Best,
Mike
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michael sebastian
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« Reply #9 on: September 05, 2006, 10:13:02 PM »
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Parents have every right to be scared when a stranger shows up with a camera.  We must all be sensitive to the new reality of internet fear.


Maybe,but they're got as much reason to 'fear' the guy they know who shows up every week
to photograph their kids. How can they be sure this guy does't have a roomfull of prints
for his own enjoyment. There's more to be wary of than just the internet.

I think using the 'pedophile' angle is about as lame as using the race card.
Just one more tactic,in my opinion, for a local hack to ensure non-competition.
If their image quality isn't above that of a few parents with cameras then their in the
wrong business

Mark
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Hank
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« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2006, 09:20:18 AM »
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I don't know if this answers the pedophile/security issues for anyone else, but we have found a solution that works for us.  We each have "public" photo vests for use at events and other public venues with our studio logo and phone number large on the backs.  They aren't appropriate for all our venues, but we use them conscienciously in these settings.  

We also chat with organizers and security-types beforehand, both to learn their concerns and to explain our presence and activities.  We WANT everyone to know who we are, what we are doing, and how to contact us if there are questions.  There is no perception of "sneaking around," and there have been no problems.  It helps too, perception-wise, that my wife often shoots with me in such setting because I'm a big, gruff-lookinng guy.  While our inititial motive for labeling ourselves was exposure for our business (and that certainly works), it has also had many benefits in circumventing security issues.
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sao366
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« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2006, 08:29:34 PM »
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I just wanted to add a few things to my original passage because I think things kind of went into an area I was not expecting... when I first started taking pictures of my son, that was all I was doing...a few games later, a few parents from my son's team asked for a few shots of their son, then a few more parents, then a few more from different teams, all of who I knew through the many years of my son playing multiple sports...then when I could not handle all the requests, I found a little photo sharing site and posted pictures for the parents to purchase thier pictures...now, I have made a small name for myself in a relatively small town and have been taking photos ever since...now for the guy who didn't want me at the games taking pictures...he did say that he had the contract to shoot the games and that any money made from my pictures, 33% was his...once again, he can kiss my %&^*(  ...the real reason he ticked my off is that he was not providing the service for which he said he had a contract for... I was never taking a bread off this mans table because he never came to the games to shoot the action photos in the first place...I really just wanted to know how to handle this guy for harrassing me about a service he wasn't providing...now he does shoot action photos of sports and I have seen some of his work and I still contest, my work is not only better, but less expensive...

I do apologize if I misrepresented my situation...I hope this sheds more light on the discussion, Thank you
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Nill Toulme
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« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2006, 09:14:29 PM »
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It does indeed.

Nill
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pobrien3
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« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2006, 10:52:50 PM »
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You do have to exercise some caution when taking photos of youngsters in public situations, and having the trust of the parents is important.  I shoot dance and performance events for kids ranging from 3-19 years old, and I do so in an official capacity as the appointed photographer for the dance school / theatre / event organiser / tourist board.  I don't wear an 'official' vest (though something of the sort is a very good idea, I'll do something about that...), and have had no problems with parents being suspicious.  I also sell prints from a website to the parents, and have never had a print request from a non-parent.  In any case I independantly, discretely verify that the person requesting the photos is the parent of the child.  My website is not open to public access, it is password protected and the URL isn't openly published.  Only one parent of a teenage starlet has requested that I not post photographs of his daughter (which I of course honour), but the same parent was fine with me taking pictures of her and has bought a number of prints from me. They know and trust me, but didn't want their daughter's images on the internet.

At these events, the parents will of course be taking their own pictures, theoretically removing a sales opportunity for me.  The theatres allow this, and I have no issue with it.  Who am I to ask a proud parent not to photograph their loved one?  In any case, it's up to me to do a better image (and no flash photography is permitted, so I get a good chance!) and if I do so, perhaps I don't lose a sale!

At the last event I did another 'pro' turned up and asked for backstage access (which he was refused, by the theatre), and later took up position front stage when the shows started.  He was asked to leave before he got shooting.

I guess the point of my ramblings is that you should seek official recognition from the sport / event organiser or venue owner, and conduct yourself and your sales offering in a way that demonstrates you are respectable and worthy of parents' trust.  If there is an encumbent official photographer, you should not take up battle with him/her, but ask for clarification from the organisers.  If you both get recognition, then may the best man win!
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smbearman
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« Reply #14 on: May 06, 2008, 10:46:30 AM »
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I am a sports photographer and I would have to say that although I can appreciate your trying to create business possibilities for yourself, I believe it is unethical to go behind the contracted photographers back and steal their business.  

You have to keep in mind that as a photographer there are costs to operate your business, gas materials and other expenses that are used to place a bid and determine youíre pricing and the packages you offer.  It is also based on how many children you will be shooting. I know that it can be frustrating to deal with people who will not give you the contract especially when your product and service is better but it is totally uncool to undercut the person under contract.  

I live in a small town in Illinois.  The sports photographer who they have been using for years is really awful but they are unwilling to change because they want to keep things simple and people in small towns just donít want to change even if they are receiving an inferior service.  

What I have done is to ask the coach for the team that my child is on to let me take my own picture of the team and then I give one to each parent with a note saying that if they like my picture better they should talk with who ever is in charge and ask for me next year.  They always like my pictures better but still the 2 or 3 people in town who are in charge of the league want to use the same guy.  

It is crazy! I am doing work in all of the towns around my area but not in my own town.  I mention this because I do understand your frustration but it is still not cool to take the shot unless the subject is perhaps a friend of the family.  I am not sure what the legal position would be but it is a bit at the minimum it is unprofessional and unethical.  

I should also mention that I started out in a similar way.  I was making a DVD for our spring show for my daughter's gymnastics team.  I took a picture of each kid right after the Contracted photographer just for the purpose of the DVD.  I have done alot of fine art photography but had not really considered sports photography until several of the parents commented on how they liked my pictures better than the other photographer.  There where so many that felt that way they all asked the owner if I could shoot the next year instead.  

If you truly want to expand your business begin to market yourself in additional areas and keep pursuing the contract. Use the images you have already taken as the beginnings of your portfolio.  Get a web site that shows your work.  A picture says a thousand words and a good web site is a great sales and marketing tool. Try to be patient.  You can not control the folks who award these contracts you just have to remain steadfast and handle yourself and your potential business professionally and ethically.  If you do so and remain above the fray your reputation will win out.  At least in theory.  Good Luck  to you
luck.
 
« Last Edit: May 06, 2008, 11:15:36 AM by smbearman » Logged
mikeseb
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« Reply #15 on: May 07, 2008, 05:59:00 AM »
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I believe it is unethical to go behind the contracted photographers back and steal their business.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=193841\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
Again, I have to respectfully disagree. Much depends on the relationship between the actual owners of the property and this other photographer. The event organizers may have contracted to give to this guy that which is not theirs to give--namely, exclusivity in a venue on property they don't actually own, or legally control while the event is going on. If he is dumb enough to sign a contract under such circumstances, he has no right to complain about "violators", and I don't see it as unethical at all to do your own work despite him.

I guess it depends just how much stink you want to raise. I'd keep doing what you're doing until they clap you in irons, or someone provides clarification about who owns the venue, and whether they have any rights to grant exclusivity. As for giving him 33%...%$*#@^!
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michael sebastian
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