Media still not on the tee at Fields
Boycott continues as sides work to resolve dispute over credential restrictions
Backed by several other news organizations, the Associated Press made progress yesterday in talks with the LPGA about new restrictions on press credentials, but was unable to resolve the dispute in time to cover the start of the Fields Open in Hawaii.
Ochoa goes low at Ko Olina
Lorena Ochoa shot an 8-under-par 64 yesterday to take a one-stroke lead at the Fields Open in Hawaii.
Seon Hwa Lee and Wendy Ward were tied for second. Karen Stupples was two strokes back after a 66 on the 6,519-yard Ko Olina Golf Club course.
Honolulu teenager Michelle Wie and Morgan Pressel were among a group of nine golfers three strokes back.
The AP said the proposed rules would limit its use of stories and photos after a tournament ended and give the LPGA broad rights to use the material for its own purposes at no charge. Without an agreement, the AP did not have a reporter or photographer on the course when play began yesterday.
Today, for the second day in a row, The Honolulu Star-Bulletin does not have coverage of the tournament because of the new restrictions.
"As much as we would have liked to provide stories and photos of Michelle Wie and the other golfers, we could not comply with the new LPGA restrictions," said Frank Bridgewater, editor. "Covering the tournament under these conditions may have been good for readers in the short term, but it would have hurt them much more longer term."
The Honolulu Advertiser, after running stories and a photo yesterday on Wie and the tournament, said on its Web site about noon yesterday that it had also withdrawn from coverage.
The presidents of the AP Managing Editors, AP Sports Editors and AP Photo Managers associations -- representing the 1,800 member newspapers of the AP in the United States and The Canadian Press in Canada -- sent a letter to the LPGA in support of the AP's decision.
The National Press Photographers Association also voiced support.
"We've had some good discussion with LPGA," AP assistant general counsel Dave Tomlin said yesterday in New York. "As a result of those discussions, it looks to us now that their intention was to provide appropriate access and full editorial use by the AP of information and photos obtained at their events.
"We're optimistic that further discussions will reflect and address the goals and concerns of both AP and the LPGA," Tomlin said. "We appreciate LPGA's willingness to work constructively with us on this, and we expect to be back covering LPGA events soon."
Tomlin has said that the AP had no objections to limits on commercial use of its coverage, which all leagues forbid, but would not consent to editorial limits.
In a statement yesterday, the LPGA said it "intends for its credentials to provide media companies with the same rights to use news and information obtained at LPGA events that are available from other mainstream sports leagues and governing bodies, such as the NBA, PGA Tour, Major League Baseball and NCAA."
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Media lawyers: LPGA tries a power move
Over the past decade, sports associations and teams have increasingly required journalists to give up full ownership of their photos or stories in exchange for credentials to cover games.
But the scope of restrictions expected of reporters and photographers for the LPGA Fields Open in Ko Olina is unprecedented, said Boston media-law attorney Joseph D. Steinfield, who is in Honolulu for a conference on the First Amendment.
"What the LPGA is doing is trying to control the after-market. It's purely about a profit," Steinfield said, adding that the policy isn't "good for the press" or the public. "The notion of boycotting these events seems to be the correct response."
The Star-Bulletin, Associated Press and other news organizations are not covering the event, which started yesterday, citing concerns over limits placed on their photographs and stories.
To get credentials, media outlets must agree to hand over ownership of their photos to the LPGA and only publish or air stories about the event as news stories. Reporters covering the event can only write about the LPGA Tour, and those stories could be used in perpetuity by the LPGA for free.
Also, if a publication wants to use its own photos of the event in the future, it must ask the LPGA's permission.
The LPGA has said the policy is in line with those for other sports tours or leagues. It is in negotiations with media outlets on the rules.
Nationwide, news outlets -- especially sports photographers -- have had to agree to more and more stringent rules to gain access to games, Honolulu media attorney Jeff Portnoy said
"The amazing thing is that a league that absolutely needs publicity, like the LPGA, would attempt this," Portnoy added. "It's nothing more than an economic power grab."
In some cases, media-law attorneys have gone after the restrictions on events with anti-trust lawsuits, alleging that the organizations have a monopoly over a particular team, league or tour.
But that failed to convince a Florida judge, who ruled in 2002 that the PGA Tour can claim ownership over scores and require media outlets to withhold them. Subsequent rulings upheld the ruling and the Supreme Court refused to take the case.
The case involved Georgia-based newspaper publisher Morris Communications Group Corp., which owns the Florida Times-Union and sued the PGA after the newspaper was required to delay reporting golf scores. The PGA said that it had a right to publish them first.
But Morris' attorney, George Gabel Jr., told the Jacksonville Business Journal in 2004 that "nobody has a proprietary interest in facts."
In a similar dispute, the NBA recently sued the New York Times for selling photographs of games and players on its Web site.
The Times reached a settlement with the NBA, which allowed the newspaper to continue selling the photos as long as it included an NBA logo on the images along with a link to the association's Web site.
"The argument is that it's just business -- we can bar anyone we want," Steinfield said. "They own a product; what they're trying to do is control the use of that product."