Online News Association Blasts Baseball Restrictions in Letter

By: Joe Strupp

Major League Baseball’s new restrictions on the use of online photo images has drawn a protest letter from the Online News Association, a 1200-member group of Web journalists.

In the letter, sent Tuesday to Baseball Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig, the nine-year-old group objected to the new restrictions that include limits on the number of game photos online and the duration of time video can be placed on a Web site.

The restrictions are being placed on all media credentials for the upcoming 2008 baseball season, which begins later this month.

“These terms interfere with our members? ability to do their jobs as journalists and cover news of public importance,” ONA President Jonathan Dube says in the letter.

The new restrictions include: a 72-hour limit on posting photos after games; a seven-photo limit on the number of photos posted from a game while it is in progress; a 120-second limit on video length from game-related events; and a ban on live or recorded audio and video from game-related events posted 45 minutes before the start of a game through the end.

“In the letter, ONA points out that limiting the number of photos from a game that can be displayed online to seven could potentially limit the ability of news organizations to publish reader-submitted photos and ‘citizen journalism,'” the group stated in a release. “ONA also objects to allowing the Commissioner?s office to define what constitutes a game ‘photo gallery’ and prohibit their use on news sites.

The letter follows previous objections from the Associated Press Sports Editors and the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Representatives of both of those groups are set to meet with baseball officials about the restrictions on Wednesday.

The entire ONA letter is posted below:


March 4, 2008
Mr. Allen H. (Bud) Selig
Office of the Commissioner of Baseball
777 E. Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 3060
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Dear Commissioner Selig:

The Online News Association strongly objects to the terms on which Major League Baseball proposes to credential journalists and urges you to work collaboratively with representatives of
the media to develop credentialing terms that better serve the relevant business, journalistic, and societal interests.

Our association, which represents more than 1,200 online news media members, believes that many of the proposed restrictions are contrary to the interests of Major League Baseball, to baseball fans and to our members, who cover sports news in an emerging multimedia environment.

These terms interfere with our members? ability to do their jobs as journalists and cover news of public importance.

We request that MLB collaborate with the news media to develop new credential terms that would mutually protect our interests — and the public interest — while encouraging open and robust coverage of baseball players and games.

Among the issues the Online News Association finds most objectionable:

? Limiting the number of photographs from each game that may be displayed online to seven. This restriction is particularly troubling because it applies regardless of whether
an organization took the photos itself. This limit could be interpreted to include readersubmitted photos, potentially limiting the ability of news organizations to publish usergenerated content and ?citizen journalism.?

? Prohibiting the use of game photographs as part of a photo gallery, and having the Commissioner?s office determine the definition of a ?photo gallery.? Leaving the Commissioner?s office to define, on an ad hoc basis, an online ?photo gallery? would make it impossible for our members to plan coverage because the commissioner?s office would have the ability to define, unilaterally and after the fact, what does and doesn?t fall within the restriction.

? Prior written notice of the intention to display non-text accounts: This restriction is unnecessarily onerous and inconsistent with the need to communicate news in a timely

? Restrictions on recording audio and video from 45 minutes prior to a scheduled game until that game has concluded. This is unnecessarily restrictive, as news often develops in the time immediately preceding a game.

? Restrictions on the length of time non-text content may be archived online. Among other things, non-text content serves as an important part of the historical record, which would be undermined by the proposed restrictions.

The restrictions in these credentials make it harder for the members of ONA to do their jobs as journalists.

We urge you to reconsider these restrictions and collaborate with the news media to develop credential terms that serve our mutual interests and thereby better serve the public.

Jonathan Dube
Online News Association

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