What are the copyright laws on photos taken at sports events?

Digital journalism has become a fast growing industry and has been advancing greatly in today’s generation.  This is leading to restrictions on photography done in sports events in many different countries, including the United States. There are a variety of restrictions on different contexts.


Let’s take a look at some of these:

  1. Public property vs private property: The location of the venue is crucial in determining whether photography can be done or not. There are two classes of property in general – public and private. Most of the football field or cricket stadiums are owned by single owners. These owners have the complete right to either allow or not allow photography of the event to take place in their property. It could either be a person or a company that owns the property.

The government owns the public property. This land, in general, is not owned by a joint entity and these areas usually include municipal ballparks and fields. These areas are used for sports leagues. In these areas, photography can be done even without taking any kind of permission.

  1. Consent and permission: Despite some of the rules in sporting event venues, the United States Supreme Court still allows photographers to take pictures on public areas without any permission. It is a common practice to get written consent when photographing individuals and putting up these images on magazines, newspapers, YouTube and other websites. Moreover, consent of parents is a necessity for minors who are under the age of 18. These consents help to protect not only the interests of the photographer but also help to keep their professionalism intact.
  2. Types of restrictions on photographers: There are certain rules on the type of cameras that can be used by professional photographers in certain venues. There are differentiations made in professional and personal equipment use. For instance, the use of personal equipment includes shoot, basic point and digital SLR cameras. Professional equipment usually includes large and bulky SLR cameras. Some premises prevent the use of professional accessories which is inclusive of tripods, lenses and flash modules because they obstruct the audience’s view. Camcorders are also usually not allowed in the venues whether they are professional or personal.
  3. Photography policy: For many years, reporters and individuals have been photographing sports events, however, in the more recent years, much of the event venues and sports teams themselves have placed restrictions on photography mainly for the privacy concerns and the rights of the players.

What needs to be kept in mind, however, is the fact that different facilities have different rules for the photographers. There are different kinds of facilities from professional stadiums, collegiate and high school stadiums to municipal fields. Each one of these are bound to their own policies which is distinct from the other. Moreover, even within each one of these facilities, different organizations may have different rules. For professional stadiums, photographers need to have press clearance to receive press passes in order to shoot from the side where they won’t obstruct the audience’s view. Such rules have been laid out for different facilities.