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Do You Need a License to Publish Sports Scores on the Web? When Does that News Picture Become an Archive Picture Requiring a License? Can you Use it For Advertising? Can a Picture Agency Make you Purge Your Library of its Pictures If Your Business Relationship Ends? We  Answer Those Types of Questions! 


What kind of mine-field is this? Take a look at the story below:

US Supreme Court Upholds Sports Organizers  Hold Intellectual Property Rights to Scores

WASHINGTON (ftm) – In a major intellectual property rights decision that can require publishing outlets to take out licenses for real-time coverage of sporting events, the Supreme Court has let stand a lower court decision that sports event organizers retain the intellectual property rights to their events even if  information is disseminated by reporters on the scene.  

In particular, organizers can impose publishing time delays for  third parties receiving  that information from  media outlets, unless that third party holds a license for real-time coverage directly from the organizer.

A federal court had ruled in March that the Professional Golf Association (PGA) was within its rights to require a license from any third party media entity publishing event information in real-time unless that entity purchased a publishing license from the PGA. The media had argued that since it attends the sporting events – public events -- and files the information about the event from its own reporters, then it is entitled to onward sell that information immediately without restriction.

The ruling could bring sports coverage into a licensing world once used mostly for financial information. Many of the world’s stock exchanges require a 15-20 minute delays for free reporting of stock market index information. To publish real-time index information  requires publishers to buy a license from the stock exchange, no matter whether that information comes directly from the exchange or from a a third party information supplier  such as Reuters or Bloomberg. 

Philip M. Stone comments:  

The story above is just a small example of the conflict between event organizers and the media. But while the legal pendulum is swinging in the organizer's favor, the media has discovered it does have a powerful way of fighting back. (For an analysis of how this issue affects both sides of the Atlantic and how the courts are ruling click here).  

The press believes it has the right to cover events as they happen, sell their product to whomever they want, and to do what they basically want forever with that coverage. The owners of those events, such as a football team, have very different ideas. It’s their team, their stadium, their game. Their pictures?

In the above story the federal court particularly ruled that it cost the PGA a great deal of money, investment in time and  technology, to provide a real-time information service  and it was therefore entitled to recover that money via selling licenses. 

It is such a sensitive subject because it is turning upside down the way , say, the still picture media business has traditionally operated. It used to be the  newspaper or agency photographer shot the picture, the paper printed it, archived it, and whenever it wanted it would drag out that same picture and republish it at will without any additional payments.

No more. A thick line is being drawn in the sand about usage, and, yes, the lawyers are in this up to their armpits. What is “news” usage versus archive usage. And if it is archive usage should there be additional fees? And just how long can the picture be archived? And how many times can you use it? And what if someone wants to use it in an advertisement? In a brochure? In a book? Calendar?

It has been only recently that international picture agencies figured out there was a value in making a subscriber pay more than once for the same picture -- first when it was used as a news picture, and then again when it was an archive. About the same time, event holders, used to receiving huge rights money from television coverage, started asking why the same should not apply for still pictures, too. There are very few events held now where the event holder doesn’t try to impose restrictions or costs on media coverage.

We’ve been involved in these types of discussions since they first really became active a few years ago. We are not lawyers, but if you are fighting your way through this maze of what “rights” you really hold to your pictures, or the pictures you buy, then we can advise  you on what you can probably negotiate, what you should try and negotiate, and what you probably won’t be able to negotiate.  

And a parting thought: Do you have stringers filing news and/or pictures for your agency, newspaper or broadcast? Are you using those stories or pictures on your web site? Are you archiving the information? Have you asked yourself if you have the intellectual property rights to do this? 


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