Common restrictions in sports credentials

A list of recurring issues that appear in sports credentials. Reviewing this list should assist you in identifying troublesome provisions when you are presented with new credentials to cover a league or team.

ASNE legal counsel, Kevin M. Goldberg, has compiled a list of recurring issues that appear in sports credentials. Reviewing this list should assist you in identifying troublesome provisions when you are presented with new credentials to cover a league or team.

General Provisions

  • The credential may be limited to only some media or platforms. One example would be to allow publication in newspapers and magazines or broadcast on television or radio, but prohibit publication of some or all content online or on mobile platforms. They may also prohibit the use of content, especially photo or video content, inS books or more “perpetual” media.
  • Credentials often limit the use of content, especially “non-textual” (i.e., photos, audio, or video) content, to news, editorial or “First Amendment protected” purposes.
  • The team, league or event often attempts to assert a property right in the event itself with language that grants the credential holder a “license” to use material it has compiled, consistent, again, with news, editorial or First Amendment protected purposes. A variation involves asserting copyright in the journalists work, with a similar license granted to the publication. We believe either one is contrary to well-established law that says the copyright in any original , fixed work vests with the creator — such as the photographer or cameraman.
  • Quite often, the credential limits publication of information while the event is in progress. While some limit “real time descriptions” or live blogging (without clearly defining what constitutes either one), others will forbid any in-game information. The most common restrictions of real-time publication will often require a time delay, such as only allowing score updates at the end of a quarter, half or game, or publication of photos on a certain time delay. It is very rare that a credential will allow any use of audio or video during a game.
  • The league, team or event will often require that the credential holder link back to the league, team or event Web site.
  • The credential will often reserve the right to eject the credential holder for any reason or “without cause” and will further reserve the right to bring criminal or civil penalties for trespass in the event that the credential holder does not comply.
  • There is often a prohibition on the distribution of content to end users, forbidding syndication or other authorized redistribution by third parties
  • These general concerns are often repeated with regard to specific content such as photos, audio or video. However, these specific types of content, as well as the issue of live blogging, are also addressed separate in certain credentials and, thus, merit special emphasis below as well.

As discussed above, the credential will often assert that the issuing body (the league, team or event) has a copyright in the holders photos.

The following provisions all stem from the assertion of this right.

  • There is almost always a limit on the number of photos that can be published while the game is in progress — which almost always carries a time delay. There may be a limit on the number of photos that can be published after the event and a limit as to how long the photos can remain accessible after the event.
  • In this same vein, the credentials may try to control how photos are displayed on news pages. The most egregious control is to forbid the archiving of photos or creation of photo galleries.
  • The credential may prohibit all non-news, noneditorial uses of photos, expressly forbidding their sale or other redistribution as a way of preventing others from any commercial use of the photos.
  • The issuing body may require either (a) a right to purchase photos at a low price (often requiring a right to purchase at the most favorable terms offered to third parties) or (b) assert a right to a free or low-cost license to use journalists' photos on demand. In many instances, the issuing body may simply try to “free ride” off your efforts by demanding a right to use the photos for their own news, editorial or “First Amendment protected” purposes.

The credentials often try to make access to highlights of game action too difficult, expensive or burdened with conditions.

Examples include …

  • Forbidding the making of journalist-recorded video of game action while, at the same time, withholding highlights created by the issuing body or its authorized partners.
  • Imposing unreasonable time, place, use, or duration limits on journalist stand-up or other nongame action video recorded at the venue.
  • Making other unreasonable demands on videographers in the name of “security and safety.”

The credential may try to control how video is displayed.

Examples include …

  • Completely prohibiting the posting of any audio or video while the game is in progress (or at least on a significant time delay)
  • Limiting the total amount of audio or — more often — video that can be posted after the game is over and requiring that the credential holder remove that audio or video from its Web site within a certain period of time.
  • The credentials may completely prevent newspaper or nonbroadcast Web sites from using any video by limiting online video to the simulcast of a broadcast news feed which must be of a limited duration (often about three minutes) and which must be taken down within a specific time period
  • Forbidding any adjacent advertising or by requiring use of its video player on the journalist's Web site

As discussed above, the credentials may attempt to prevent "live blogging" by …

  • Only allowing updates that do not simulate or purport to simulate a real-time play-by-play account of the game, while failing to clarify the difference between “permitted updates” and the prohibited “real time” updates
  • Explicitly preventing any in-game updates of any kind, save for score updates (which may or may not allow statistical updates and news about “historical” events) at the end of every quarter, half or game.