Louisiana Sports Group Lifts Ban That Limited Papers’ Sale of Photos

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The Louisiana High School Athletic Association on Tuesday lifted its demand that would have limited newspapers’ sale of photos from the state girls’ high school basketball tournament, allowing photographers to take pictures at will.

“We’ve backed off,” said Tommy Henry, commissioner of the association. “We’re just expecting them to use the pictures they take at the games as they said they would. We don’t want to keep photographers from doing their jobs. They can take all the pictures they want and use them they way they want to use them.”

“It’s impossible to know what Tommy Henry’s motives were or what the Louisiana High School Athletic Association was thinking about over the course of the past two days. Whatever they were thinking, they apparently weren’t thinking clearly,” said Ken Stickney, president of the Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press Managing Editors.

The dispute stemmed over who controls the photographic rights from the games and whether newspapers have the right to sell the games’ pictures, Henry said.

Photographers left the tournament Monday rather than sign a form saying that only pictures that appear in “the actual physical newspaper” may be sold. Allowing newspapers to sell copies of its photos would violate the LHSAA’s contract with Musemeche Photography, Henry said.

Henry did not address how the latest move affects the association’s contract with Musemeche Photography.

“The LHSAA tried to trample on the First Amendment rights of Louisiana newspapers by dictating how and what they could publish, as well as where they could publish it,” said Stickney, who’s also the managing editor of the Monroe News-Star. “For two days, the standoff they forced kept the photographed images of high school girls — magnificent athletes — from appearing in newspapers and on Web sites around the state.

“In the end, they hurt the athletes at a time when the athletes themselves should have been celebrated on the grandest stage in girls state basketball. That’s such a shame.”

Before Henry’s announcement, newspaper editors looked for alternative ways to provide photo coverage of the tournament.

“We’re trying to provide the best coverage we can,” said Hammond Star Executive Editor Lil Mirando. “We’re going to the Ponchatoula pep rally and take pictures there. We’ll get pictures where we can.”

On the Web site NOLA.com, the Times Picayune, under the heading “Fight the Power,” asked readers to submit their photos of the tournament.

Mirando said her photographers were presented Tuesday with the same form distributed Monday but told they “were not required to sign it” and were let into the tournament.

“It’s very much a freedom of the press issue,” said Kathy Spurlock, executive editor of the Monroe News-Star and chairman of the Louisiana Press Association’s Freedom of Information Committee. “We’re in this business because we want to cover these kids. We want to provide richer, deeper coverage and online is a way to do that.”

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