News Photographers Refused Access to Illinois High School Football Championship Games

The Illinois High School Association, who oversees high school sports in the state last night denied access to several newspapers, according to an article in the Pantagraph.

At issue here is the policy of newspapers to sell reprints of published photos. The IHSA is considering this a commercial use of the images, and they claim ownership of the commercial rights to the games. Newspapers claim that reprints are a long-established customer service initiative. The vast majority of those reprints are sold to parents with no rights beyond personal display.

As a former photojournalist (and editor) who covered a lot of high school sports, I offer this opinion: While newspapers may be charging $20-30 a print which the average person believes can be made for a few bucks, the reprint “business” is not a profit-making one for most papers. The time it takes is substantial. The need to maintain printing equipment that meets the professional standards of the newspaper is substantial.

Now, newspapers that are creating photo galleries of everything that’s sharp, with no thought to news value, those papers are looking at it as a revenue stream and, well, I’m not sure I can support that, ethically, as they may be profiting off of the players.

There’s a slightly off-center middle ground here, giving newspapers the ability to sell prints – with no additional rights granted – to the public as long as those images are part of their “standard” news coverage.

Now, go define “standard.”

(See earlier post about the Illinois Press Association suing the Illinois High School Association, a suit which was dropped when the IPA believed they were close to an agreement with the IHSA.)

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