Saturday, November 03, 2007

High School Associations vs. the press - round 3

Earlier this year, it was Wisconsin and Louisiana newspeople who were grousing and rattling sabres about high school sports association rules in their states giving pretty much exclusive photo coverage to a company the association hired.

Now, a similar situation has boiled over into the courts in Illinois. That state's press association has sued that state's high school sports association to block new association rules limiting media use of photos from games and other events.

The restrictions sound like the usual: Use of photos only in the paper, not on Web sites or other products. Limit on video footage, and again, no Web.

According to the story from the Bloomington Pantagraph (a great newspaper name) via the Media Info Center, the press association says that allowing one private party unrestricted access while restricting the news media violates the equal protection clause of the Illinois Constitution.

Good luck with that. Do you find it a touch ironic, as I do, that at the same time industry leaders like the AP's Tom Curley are preaching we've got to treat this like a business, we still go around trying to tell other businesses (and yes, that's what the high school associations, like any sports groups today, are) that they should give away their stuff so that we can make money off it in any way we choose?

And then there's this: While a press association victory there might embolden others, with that legal theory it's going to be limited to Illinois (and perhaps other states with similar clauses where such a ruling would have no force of law but might be used to persuade). I wish someone would make the argument that schools are public institutions and that they don't shed that by creating their own private club so they can be members. But I'm no lawyer, so maybe that's a dead end.

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