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Author Topic: Legal Issues Surrounding Pro Athlete's  (Read 6195 times)
sparrish
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« on: June 27, 2007, 08:47:32 PM »
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I am very close friends with a young man who is an avid MLB baseball fan and attends numerous games per year.

Recently at the Red Sox-Braves game in Atlanta, he took a professional grade photo of Coco Crisp as he dove head long for one of the best catches of his career.

Here's my question. Is it legal to take photo's at MLB games and make same available for sale? It seems at first glance that The Boston Globe or SI would gladly pay a reasonable fee for this particualr photo. However, this young man is just "getting his legs" as a sports phtographer and neither he nor I know the law(s) as they pertain to professional athlete's.

Would those of you who are familiar with this matter please enlighten us as to what is morally and legally correct regarding this issue?

Thanks in advance to all for any response you may provide.

sparrish
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Don Libby
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« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2007, 09:08:31 PM »
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sparrish -  boy, sitting here reading your post then thinking of how I was going to reply I thought you are not going to like reading this....

Why not go approach the Globe or SI to see what their take on this is directly instead of posting and waiting for a bunch of conflicting answers?  

Please - I'm not attempting to start a battle or flame anyone but as a person who up till about 4 years ago helped to enforce law in the US for over 30 years there's no way I would seek legal advise of any sort without first knowing for sure who I'm speaking to.

I started to give you what I thought was "legal" advise but decided to delete it.  Instead I stand on what I said earlier, contact the Globe and SI to see what their teams of attorneys say.

I wish nothing but the best of luck to you and this young man.

don
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mikeseb
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« Reply #2 on: June 28, 2007, 04:07:33 PM »
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Ditto what Don said.

Did your friend save his ticket stub or a program? Has he checked the Braves' website or that of MLB? Any of those sources of information may answer your question. The ticket is a "license" to watch the game and to be on the premises, and may enumerate or restrict other rights as a part of your use of the facilities.

It seems I read that a couple years ago one or more MLB teams tried to insist that photojournalists covering their games had to basically assign all rights to their work, or even copyright, to the teams and/or the league as a condition of access to the facility. Thankfully, the PJ's and the magazines that assigned them balked, and MLB eventually backed down rather than face a sports-news-coverage blackout.

I'm betting your friend is going to get some resistance.
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« Reply #3 on: July 04, 2007, 04:56:51 AM »
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Your friend is going to have to make a deal with the team/league if he wants to sell his photo without opening himself up to the possibility of legal action. There are a few principles at work here:

If you sell a photograph of a person without getting a signed model release, the subject can sue you for a portion of the proceeds of the sale plus punitive damages. It doesn't sound like your friend has one. The pros (SI shooters, etc) are covered by the agreements they sign with the league and the agreements the players sign with the league. These agreements typically strictly limit how the photographers can use the images they shoot and who they can sell them to, and at what prices, etc., as well as spelling out liability issues.

You may not realize it, but when you purchase a ticket to attend a major sporting event, you are legally agreeing to a bunch of terms and conditions governing what you can and can't do at the event. Typically the high points are spelled out on the stub somewhere, along with a reference to the complete text of the agreement. Shooting photos of the game for profit is pretty much always specifically forbidden.

Trying to sell the photo to the team/league would avoid the legal problems, but that is a VERY tough path to go. For every working pro, there are at least 1000 photographer wannabes, and many of them are actually talented. You need excellent sales skills as well as lots of talent and deent gear to get anywhere. Selling to a third party would be easier, but more risky legally. Your friend may not get caught, but if he does, the lawyers will pretty much be able to crush his testicles in court.
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Petrjay
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« Reply #4 on: July 04, 2007, 09:14:05 AM »
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The little spiel that is given during all MLB radio and television broadcasts should answer your friend's question. It goes something like: "...any use of the pictures, descriptions, or accounts of this game without the express written consent of the Boston Red Sox or MLB is prohibited." I've been hearing that little speech for all of the 50 years I've been following the Sox, so my guess is that they mean it.
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ckimmerle
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« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2007, 07:50:54 AM »
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Your friend is going to have to make a deal with the team/league if he wants to sell his photo without opening himself up to the possibility of legal action......

If you sell a photograph of a person without getting a signed model release, the subject can sue you for a portion of the proceeds of the sale plus punitive damages. It doesn't sound like your friend has one. The pros (SI shooters, etc) are covered by the agreements they sign with the league and the agreements the players sign with the league. These agreements typically strictly limit how the photographers can use the images they shoot and who they can sell them to, and at what prices, etc., as well as spelling out liability issues..

Getting in on this a bit late, but the above statement is not entirely true. It's not the SALE that is the issue, it's the intended USE. In general, selling an image to a newspaper or magazine for editorial use is fine. The trouble comes in two ways: the image is reproduced in bulk (posters, cards, etc.) and sold openly for profit, or the image is sold for commercial use (marketing, advertising, etc).

Pro athletes have no more protections that that offered to the rest of us, although Jonathan was correct that, when a ticket to game is purchased (or a press pass picked up), the buyer/photographer enters into a contract that may limit certain activities.
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« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2007, 09:13:04 AM »
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Getting in on this a bit late, but the above statement is not entirely true. It's not the SALE that is the issue, it's the intended USE. In general, selling an image to a newspaper or magazine for editorial use is fine. The trouble comes in two ways: the image is reproduced in bulk (posters, cards, etc.) and sold openly for profit, or the image is sold for commercial use (marketing, advertising, etc).

You're right, in general. I was thinking commercial, and forgot about editorial use.
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sparrish
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« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2007, 05:08:24 PM »
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Thank you very much to each and everyone who responded to my original post.

You provided valuable food for thought which in turn enabled me to gain a better understanding regarding photography as it relates to professional athlete's.

We remain diligent in our search for additional clarity, but rest assured, we are much further along than we were just a few short weeks ago.

Good luck to each of you and thanks again!
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tim wolcott
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« Reply #8 on: August 28, 2007, 01:59:28 PM »
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Sparrish, you can publish these without any recourse, from the player or the league.  Take the case of Tiger Woods vs the photographer a few years ago that the supreme court ruled in favor of the photographer.  He was selling prints of Tiger in a tournament and was sued, but tiger lost and the court ruled that he may make upto 5000 limited edition prints before it became commercialization.  Just do not!  use his name in the selling of it or team name or league.  You can tell people who it is, but do not use a titles or placks on the print or frame using any name whatsoever.   This is the last ruling I have heard of.  Because you shot this in a public event you fall under this ruling.  Tim





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I am very close friends with a young man who is an avid MLB baseball fan and attends numerous games per year.

Recently at the Red Sox-Braves game in Atlanta, he took a professional grade photo of Coco Crisp as he dove head long for one of the best catches of his career.

Here's my question. Is it legal to take photo's at MLB games and make same available for sale? It seems at first glance that The Boston Globe or SI would gladly pay a reasonable fee for this particualr photo. However, this young man is just "getting his legs" as a sports phtographer and neither he nor I know the law(s) as they pertain to professional athlete's.

Would those of you who are familiar with this matter please enlighten us as to what is morally and legally correct regarding this issue?

Thanks in advance to all for any response you may provide.

sparrish
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kjkahn
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« Reply #9 on: August 28, 2007, 04:43:01 PM »
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the case to which you are referring is ETW Corp. v. Jireh Publishing, Inc. It concerned a painting of Woods, and was decided in Woods' favor in 2003 by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit .

I have not been able to find if the case has gone to the Supreme Court.

http://www.sidley.com/cyberlaw/features/jireh.asp

I would think the ruling would also apply to photographers, but I am not a lawyer and wouldn't presume to state it as a fact.


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Sparrish, you can publish these without any recourse, from the player or the league.  Take the case of Tiger Woods vs the photographer a few years ago that the supreme court ruled in favor of the photographer.  He was selling prints of Tiger in a tournament and was sued, but tiger lost and the court ruled that he may make upto 5000 limited edition prints before it became commercialization.  Just do not!  use his name in the selling of it or team name or league.  You can tell people who it is, but do not use a titles or placks on the print or frame using any name whatsoever.   This is the last ruling I have heard of.  Because you shot this in a public event you fall under this ruling.  Tim
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JeffKohn
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« Reply #10 on: August 29, 2007, 03:33:16 PM »
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The ticket is a "license" to watch the game and to be on the premises, and may enumerate or restrict other rights as a part of your use of the facilities.
Has this ever been tested in court?

(Please don't answer 'yes' unless you can cite a case as reference).

Note I'm talking specifically about general-admission ticket stubs, not press credentials.
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