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Interscholastic Sports Body, Newspapers Battle over Credentials

The Arizona Newspapers Association (ANA) remains upset with the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA), the organization that governs the state's high school athletics, regarding the AIA's new terms for media credentials.

The major point of contention involves the AIA's desire to control the sale of photographs and videos, also known as "secondary sales," taken by media organizations at high school playoff games and championships.

"We could use (photos or videos) for any editorial content we wanted," said ANA executive director Paula Casey. "We could print it in the newspaper or put it on our Web site, but we can't turn around and resell (the photographs and videos, according to the AIA). They tell us we could give (them) away to parents, if we chose to do that."

The ANA considers this an issue of copyright and First Amendment infringement, and believes the AIA's status as a publicly funded nonprofit opens an all-access door. The ANA has recommended that member newspapers refuse to sign the credential agreement until the issue is resolved.

The AIA, meanwhile, claims it should be given copyright discretion over the events it sanctions, much like Major League Baseball, the NFL or the NCAA.

Beyond that line in the sand, negotiations have gotten testy. (See "Media Clash With High School Body," March 27.) The ANA says new language in the media-credential requirement might include secondary sales for all high school events, including regular-season football games. The AIA denies that.

Meanwhile, the AIA says the changing face of new media has led to a flood of credential requests; this policy is designed to filter the worthy from the unworthy.

"The focus for me is on safety and the issues related to access," said AIA chief operations officer Chuck Schmidt. "We are working very hard to maintain the safety of our event (by) allowing what we would call credible news agencies, media agencies. We've dropped the term 'legitimate media,' because who's to say the blogger isn't a journalist? Who's going to define that? It's a different world. The content has changed, and how that content is created has changed."

Schmidt also said that media organizations are making some money off of that content.

"(Media organizations) may not be making a lot of money from the sales of those photos, but they are making money on the sale of banner ads attached to the video on their Web site. ... If they want to give those (photos and videos) away as part of the editorial process, we would have no problem with that. It would be just like a newspaper, except for one or two photos in the story, you'd attach a photo gallery that any kid could download onto their computer--not a problem. We consider that all a part of the editorial process. What we are talking about is what they describe as 'full access.' They believe they can go into the proms, into graduation, take photos, and then sell those. That's been a part of the dialogue."

The Arizona Newspaper Association sees the motives differently.

"The real, bottom-line issue is they're using the credentialing document as a way to hold newspapers hostage," Casey said. "If we turned around and made agreements to share revenues from these photographs, they would be thrilled. That's what they're looking for: 'Show me the money.'

"What we learned at the association level is most members quit selling high school photographs because of that reason: They didn't want to get hassled by the AIA. (AIA officials) think there's big money in high school photographs, and they want their share of it. That's what this whole thing comes down to. There really is not, but they don't believe us. The Arizona Republic told me last year (that) they sold $1,000 worth of high school photographs, and after they paid their vendor, there was $200 worth of profit. They donate many times that to high school programs across the state. With this latest document, (AIA officials) want us to sign over copyrights. That's not going to happen."

But what might happen? Could the ANA go so far as to urge member newspapers to refuse to cover high school events?

"That is an alternative," Casey said. "Nobody wants to do that. We understand that covering things that go on in our communities is important. It's newsworthy and something our readers want. ... If we were to say, 'Because of the AIA policy, we aren't going to cover it,' that is a strategy that we could take. That's not one we choose to take right now.

"Another strategy is: We could take them to court."

Both sides cite legal cases to bolster their claims--although the points of contention in this controversy don't perfectly mirror their litigation examples.

Meanwhile, both sides appear to be making very little progress, while the feelings of discontent mount.

"We don't want to butt heads; we've been wanting to create dialogue," Schmidt said. "We were anticipating getting an invitation to speak at the next ANA conference based on the last meeting we had. We never received that. We asked for it. We've had numerous contacts between our legal counsel and the counsel for the ANA. We just want to continue to dialogue and have this discussion.

"It isn't about a fight. There are so many mistruths I've seen in e-mails ... like we want to copyright regular-season (photos and videos). There's nothing in the credential that identifies anything with the regular season. If a newspaper goes out and covers an event during the regular season and wants to sell those photos, that's up to them and that individual school. That regular season is not a part of the AIA property. State tournaments are a different deal, because of the contractual agreements we have with various venues and broadcast partners. It's a totally different animal.

"Secondly ... we haven't denied anybody a media credential. We are focusing our efforts on trying to create more opportunities for newspapers and for those entities. ... That we want to own every picture they take--that's simply not true. We would just ask that if it's for noneditorial use, the AIA is given the ability to grant permission to use that."

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