Are there any legal issues when photographing kids sports events?

Discussion in 'Sports' started by mtrejo6, Jan 1, 2007.

  1. I am getting ready to start my own photo business shooting kids sports events
    like soccer, footbal, etc. Are there any legal issues I should be aware of
    since I will be dealing with minors and profiting from these images? Do I need
    a release from the parents? I've seen numerous sites that advertise/sell these
    types of sports pics but I wanted to be sure before I venture out on this sort
    of thing.

    Manny Trejo
  2. Did you do a search here? There have been some interesting (and contentious) threads this year about 'exclusive' contracts with the league, the venue, etc. Some of these issues can seem to defy common sense until you've heard all sides of it.
  3. Here's one of the threads:
  4. You're going to start a business and rely on legal advice from here? You may get some great general info (nothing you couldn't find by doing a search since this has been covered so many times already) but what about any unique issues relevant to your locale or business model.
  5. It took me about 2 years to get in with the youth football, basketball, and baseball leagues here in Katy, TX. The only real issues I know of come with exclusive contracts the league may have with other photographers. Always approach the league first and get something in writing from them allowing you to be there. Be ready to have some of your best work to show them and be prepared to shoot EVERYTHING, including cheerleaders, coaches, cheering parents, players who don't play very much, etc. The photographers who only shoot action and nothing on the sidelines will be replaced quickly. (That's how I took the contract away from the previous photographers.) As far as the parents are concerned, it's a public event. I have only had one parent say anything to me about having their child's pic on a website, and it was only because they were in hiding from an abusive spouse. Just handle them on a case by case basis. 99% of the time, no one else usually buys pics of anyone but their own kids, but keep tabs on who your sales are to: ie grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. If there is one that looks fishy, call the parents of the player and ask. It only takes a minute and will go a long way in showing that you are being careful about your sales. Do talk to an attorney first and also your insurance agent about an umbrella policy for liability purposes.
  6. You may quickly learn that the kids have no money; it's the parents you want to spend $$$$s on your photos.

    In the U.S., little ones under the age of 18 are not legal to sign a binding contract, sales agreement, or a model release.

    As noted above, you probably would do well to contact a lawyer in your town and see what advice is offered.
  7. Don't forget that you may need a business license or permit, etc., from the city or agency having jurisdiction.

    Making contact with the league or the school, or sponsoring organization will reduce any problems with coordination, getting introduced, or getting known by the various officials as well as finding out if there are existing contract arrangements. One advantage may well be that even if they haven't got a current photographer, it's possible they have included "release" type language in their participation/registration. By being "official" with them, it's likely they can extend that authority to you.

    It's a very good idea to have local legal advice because the laws can vary from state to state.
  8. Read the thread Todd posted it covers it pretty well.
  9. I have read the thread posted above. Unfortunately, it doesn't clarify things very much,
    other than to say it's not nice to do something that may affect the official photographer's
    right to make a living. That seems a moral call rather than a legal one.

    I don't live in the US, but I think I understand the way contracts work.

    1. a contract between the photographer and the league cannot under any circumstances
    stop you doing anything on public property - you are not a party to the contract;

    2. the league may (depending on its licence with the local authorites to use the playing
    field) be able to ask you to leave if they think you will cause them to be in breach of their

    3. if the league doesn't have the right to exclude members of the public, then all they can
    do is restrict access to the sidelines;

    4. whether you can sell photos depends on the local requirements to register businesses
    (which I think can depend on how much turnover the business has), but this has nothing
    to do with whether you can photograph the game;

    5. being the 'official' photographer will help to avoid suggestions that you have ulterior
    motives for photographing children.

    If any of this is not correct, I would love to know why. I am an amateur who is considering
    trying to find paid photography work. While the situation in Australia may be different
    that the US, I can't see how any of the above would change.

    thanks in advance.
  10. Thanks to Todd for the thread. It did answer many questions I had, especially when dealing with leagues. I do understand that these discussions are purely informational. I would definitely seek lawyer's advice if I need a legal point of view. Thanks to all who contributed.
  11. try searching the threads at as they are probably the best sports related website I know of...

    There are threads detailing the details of kids sports etc...

    Great resource for remotes, equipment, and it's mainly professionals of all levels that are allowed membership.
  12. Even stranger rules apply in some countries - for example, in the UK it is a good idea to get a "CRB" clearance:
  13. It can't be completely oversimplified. The organizations and individuals involved have their own legal rights and obligations and can enforce them. The photographer may assert freedom of speech/expression, press, etc., but the leagues and individuals have their own "rights" as well.

    A licensed vendor has met a variety of obligations and can expect/enforce their contract rights. That means that they can expect the league/school/city, etc., to support them. Whether you are selling popcorn or pictures, you are in business and must comply with the applicable contracts and laws.

    The concept that the outside photographer isn't a party to one contract doesn't mean that the participants, contract photographer, organizer and owners don't have valid and enforceable contracts and legal obligations.

    I'd expect that there would be a point at which you could establish clear legal right to work from, yet still be enmeshed in the organizations "trademark" and "copyright" issues when it comes to logos, etc. And you'd still need a city business licence. There are places in the US where both public and private property owners have been forced to accomodate certain "free speech" activities which they would rather not deal with. For a business, you might win some of the battles but lose the war. And there are some deeply rooted constitutional and "common law" issues at work - which may have different expressions or results in Australia compared to the US.

    The practical advantage of working through the organization to not be "some guy who showed up with a camera and is taking pictures of our kids." can't be put aside. Some photogrpahers will piously point out their "rights to take pictures" and completely miss the point that parents and organizations are far more interested (and sometimes obligated legally) in the protection of the kids. That doesn't mean it will avert all potential suspicions or that it will protect the kids. But it helps. You still need to behave appropriately, protect yourself, register (whatever) as needed for the group, etc. If you're the local "soft" pornographer and take classy (or sleazy) glamour and boudoir shots for/of consenting adults, and everybody knows that, it really doesn't matter that this is a right enshrined in the 1st Amendment(US). The parents and board members for the local soccer league will consider that (perhaps negatively or maybe as happy customers).
  14. Manny, you do not say what country you are in but I will guess in the USA. It is only as hard as you make it.

    Yes. There are legal issues. But these can be avoided easily.

    1. Contact the league. Find out if they have a contract with a photographer. If not, ask if you can be included on the agenda for one of their meetings to pitch your services. If they have a photographer, thank them for talking to you and move on to the next league.

    2. Pitch to the league what you want to do. Be prepared for many questions including; "You are going to post the images on the web? Is that safe?" Let them know that the website is not going to contain the names or any personal information about the kids and that if there is a real concern, the website can be password protected for additional security. Another question that may come up is; "What if a parent does not want their kids photo posted on the website?" This can be handled simple. The parent needs to contact you with their kids team name, his/her number, and a request that their pictures not be placed on the website. The reasons that they may not want it on line can be anything from afraid of predators to child custody cases to witness protection, so it is important that you follow the wishes of the parents in this case. I ask all my leagues to include in their forms the parents fill out a model release and waiver form.

    3. And this is very important. Have insurance. Sure enough, down the road, there will be some yahoo parent get ticked off about something and come after you for some stupid reason or maybe you mess up and put a kid's picture online after you agreed not to. Good to be covered in that case. Also important in case someone gets injured due to you or your equipment.

    I also have my leagues sign a release for their logo and uniforms so if something comes up that I would need it, I do not have to chase down the league officials to get them signed later. I had a local company who sponsored little league baseball want to use an image in a newspaper ad. Since it was one of their employee's kids, it was not an issue, but since they were going to have the leagues name and their logo shown and it was now a commercial venture, I did not have to run around trying to get releases for the logo or anything like that, I already had it in my file.

    Youth sports is fun to do, but it is also a lot of non shooting leg and paper work.
  15. Ok. I have done some research for my own benefit. I thought some here might be interested as it is quite different to the information presented in this and other threads (at least as I understood it). I acknowledge that this goes beyond the original subject matter of this thread.
    I am a lawyer, but I do not practise in this area, so don't treat my information as gospel. Get legal advice if you can, but good luck getting clear answers because there don't seem to be many.
    I live in Australia. Under Australian law, a photograph of a person in a public place can be used for any purpose whatsoever, at least according to copyright law, without any release. There are other laws that place some restrictions on what you can and cannot do. In short, you cannot use the image of a person in a way that is defamatory, or which misleads or deceives. This second exclusion is based on fair trading laws and usually arises when a photograph's use implies endorsement of a product or service (ie, it is used in advertising). If there is no suggestion of misleading conduct, then an image can be used in advertising or anywhere else without compensation or consent.
    As I understand it, the basic situation under USA law is similar, but is extended by the concepts of rights of publicity and rights of privacy which are vastly stronger in the US than in Australia or the UK. I understand that these rights are very different from state to state with Indiana (I think) having by far the most restrictive rules. In general, however, the obligation is similar to Australia in that the thing that is most likely to get you into trouble is use of an image in advertising which suggests some sort of association or endorsement.
    Getting back to this topic, playing sport in a public area would probably remove any privacy implications. Further, sale of images to parents would not be suggesting any endorsement of products or services. It is then an open question of whether the mere commercial sale of images is sufficient to infringe the right of publicity. The answer ... well, it depends on where you are and how famous you are. I note the following (quote taken from Wikipedia):
    'The 2006 New York Supreme Court case Nussenzweig v. DiCorcia determined that a non-famous individual had no rights to images taken of him in public. The photographer was free to commercialize the images and the subject was entitled to no money from the photographer, from the gallery selling prints, or from the publisher of the books. This case is currently under appeal in the New York courts. (Note that in New York, the "Supreme Court" is a trial-level court; the court equivalent to what most states call a "Supreme Court" is the New York Court of Appeals.)'​
    This issue, then, creates a minefield even for official photographers at these events unless the league has obtained the consent of the players (or parents where appropriate) on behalf of the photographer. If not, it seems that even the official photographer may have limited ability to commercialise the images.
    I would be very happy to hear from anyone with specific experience or knowledge of this issue. I am confident I understand the situation as it applies to me in Australia now, but I am certain that most threads on this topic here and at (where it comes up over and over) are based on hearsay, rules of thumb and myth rather than law. And that criticism even applies to most of the professional photographers posting.
  16. Hi Adam,

    I'm in Australia aswell whilst I'm not a lawyer I have been a youth sports photographer for a long time and had dealings with heaps of leagues and organisations.

    The sports we are talking about are mainly amatuer or youth sports let me know if I'm off track here. The images you are taking are not going to be used for advertising except for maybe on your website and will be sold to parents etc. if thats not what you are talking about forget the rest of this post. Every minor on my site that is publicly viewable has signed a release for this reason.

    When shooting kids you had better sign the working with children form which needs to be supplied by the league you'd also want insurance.

    What you need to keep in mind when doing amatuer kids stuff is that if you go onto a sideline and start shooting children playing sports expect to be approached by parents asking who you are and why you are photographing their children, this happens every time we shoot an event. A lot of parents have pedafile in the back of there minds especially when you look at cases like the surf carnival problems a few years back, if you don't believe it turn up unanounced and start shooting at a dance competition, so you are completley correct with your comment about being the official photographer helping to mitigate this risk somewhat.

    To protect myself and my shooters we have contracts in place with the league, club, dance school etc. and wear photo ID and all the OH&S vests etc required. Having the contracts in place helps with the home teams and most of the coaches / managers get to know you pretty quickly and know that you are present on behalf of the league.

    Whilst you can legaly shoot whatever you like in public place if you start shooting minors playing sports without the protection of league permission in place you are asking for trouble, maybe not legally, but I have seen a few of start ups who just turn up unannounced and start shooting only to be told where to go by parents or even officials present at the fields, needles to say thier sales suffer greatly.

    Because of peoples mind sets and damage done by others before us, my business will not shot swimming carnivals or surf carnivals it's simply not worth the hassle.

    Doing business legally is a must however doing it in a way that gets you invited to shoot tournaments, clubs, dance concerts etc year after year is much more important to the success of the business. Clubs become loyal to photographers who do good work for them and are reliable, so yes the fact that most of the previous thread may sound as though it's a moral call to protect the right for the league photographer to make money well maybe that's true and they can't stop you from shooting by law, my previous comments are based on the formal team shots mainly these outweigh sales of action shots dramatically.

    Clubs will help you build your business if you do right by them remember that most clubs are run by volenteers usualy parents who want a hassle free reliable quality service, provide this and they do look after you.

    Contact me by email if you want any advice on setting up this type of business.

  17. Thanks Mark

    I understand the practical reasons for what you say, but I have one query. Is there a
    specific reason you get releases from the people in your photos. Sounds like you don't
    use the shots for advertising. You probably wouldn't need releases even in the US. I can't
    see any legal requirement for them in Australia.

    Of course, I acknowledge the prudence of getting releases in case you happen to get an
    amazing shot that would make you a fortune in stock or advertising. I expect stock
    agencies and ad companies would want releases even if they are not strictly required just
    to minimise problems later on.

  18. A recent incident in my area (Fort Worth/Dallas, Texas) brought to light a risk that would never have occurred to me: the notion that it's possible to take "morally improper" photographs during a sporting event that is open to the public.

    See this news report and video:

    If you ever photograph any event involving female athletes under the age of consent (18, 21, whatever), you might wish to avoid taking any photographs that some paranoid, misguided or outright fascist authorities might construe as being of prurient interest. It is possible that photographing a cheerleader doing backflips might be construed as morally improper because her skip flips up, revealing the underside of her outfit. Or if you photograph a gymnast in flight and miss the framing in a close up, capturing her torso, groin or buttocks instead of her head, you may be accused of misbehavior. A dogpile of female basketball players scrambling for the ball? Might be dangerous if their butts are up in the air.

    It ain't worth it.

    As a result of the incident documented in that story I will no longer photograph sporting events in public schools, period. Certainly not in Texas. I won't even set foot on a school property with a camera. Too bad because I'd hoped to do this part time for income. I'm switching my focus to college or adult age sporting events. Society has gone insane and I'm not going down that drain with it. Should have seen it coming when parents were being arrested for taking nudie cuties of their newborn infants.

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