Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Photography and Roller Derby

Today's question is one that many a roller derby league and roller derby photographer has wondered about.

I've been a roller derby fan for about a year now, and I bring my camera to bouts to take pictures. Mostly I've been shooting the Old Capitol City Roller Girls, but I've been branching out and watching other leagues as well. What are the generally accepted practices for derby photography? Mostly I've gotten reactions of "Yay! Someone's taking pictures of us!" but I've also seen the "Only WFTDA-certified photographers with signed releases" rules at the championship tournament, and I'm wondering where things change. What if someone wants to use one of my photos in a publication (online or in print)? Where can I go to learn about my responsibilities, and what people expect of me? Can you help me find this information?



This subject is covered by basic copyright law and while my grasp of the photography particulars isn't perfect (since I'm not a photographer), here's my quick summary:

In almost all situations, if you shoot a picture, you own the copyright. Unless it is a specific kind of work-for-hire (such as a portrait shop that employs you and provides the equipment and film), you can do whatever you want with any picture you take, derby or otherwise. A league can opt to not allow cameras in to bouts or practices at their discretion but as long as you're able to take pictures, you own them. Where law leaves off and etiquette takes over is that if a league likes one of your pictures and wants to use it for a brochure or their website or something like that, it is a generally accepted practice that you allow them to use it without compensation as sort of a "donation to the cause". That's not a legally enforceable demand, it's simply courteous compliance with roller derby's "Don't be a douchebag" rule. There are circumstances under which you could potentially owe a photography subject residuals if you publish a shot for money but I THINK that that does not apply in a situation like a live sporting event. I'm admitedly shaky on residuals so don't take my word for it. Hopefully I can get clarification from all you from the veteran photographers out there in Derbyworld.

If any of you have additional or better knowledge on photography rights and laws, put 'em in the comments and I'll add them to the body of the post under your name for everyone's benefit.

Edit: This only covers US copyright law. If any of you have insight on the laws of a different country, please post in the comments!

Edit 2: Sometimes I'm right and sometimes I'm wrong. Let's see what Wet Spot has to say on the subject.

You're right and you're wrong.
Yup, the photographer owns the copyright and no one can take that away from them.
HOWEVER! This does not mean they can sell their work. If there is a model or subject in the photo or even if the photo is in a private space (venue is considered a private space) the photographer needs to get model releases and venue releases.
So if you take a photo of a jammer then you need to get that jammer's permission to sell that photograph and she may request a cut of the cash in exchange for permission.

Wet Spot

Edit 3: Here's an Australian perspective.

I'm a derby girl from Central Coast Roller Girls, Australia and a photographer who works at a major newspaper in Sydney.

In some cases if you publish or sell a photo of a person you require a signed model release from the person in the photo.

A league can say if they want photographers in a bout, hand out media passes and get them to sign a release, basically saying whatever they want. ie: the league can use any photo, league must approve publication of images, copyright can even be signed over to the league, most leagues wouldn't go this far, as photographers and leagues work together, but always read the fine print of the release so you don't loose copyright of your images. (Lots of bands make photographers sign similar releases when shooting gigs)

Photos on facebook can be used by anyone. For example, if there is a person who has committed a crime and we can legally name them, we sometimes grab a pic from facebook of the person. If its up there you can use it. Also if someone dies and there is a major news story going on we go on facebook and get pics of the people, not so nice but thats what happens. Check your privacy settings people :D And photographers, watermark your photos. :)

Bruises, Linda. xx