ethical dilemma (selling photos against rules)

I’m having a tough time deciding what to do in this situation. For the past few years, I’ve been honing my amateur photography skills and posting my photos on flickr.

I focus primarily on a specific sport and have granted permission for numerous website operators to post/link to my work with a credit line. For the first time, I’ve been contacted by the coach of an athlete asking whether they can purchase some of my work.

However, the sports federation in the US that governs the events where I’ve taken my pictures states that photos taken at their events are for personal use only and may not be sold. I know for a fact that the federation does not make photos available for purchase to the athletes/coaches/families, and the press at the event usually focuses only on the more well-known athletes.

I’m torn between charging this coach a nominal fee for making a CD of the photos, simply because I’ve put so much time and effort into it. However, I certainly don’t want the fed to get word of what I’m doing. Thoughts?

Any rule limiting the sale of anything can easily be averted.

Don’t sell the pictures, sell the CD that they come on, or sell the processing time to send them.

It’s like scalping tickets on eBay. You’re not buying the tickets, you’re buying the envelope containing a free pair of tickets.

The sports federation would have a difficult time enforcing a rule prohibiting the sale of photos anyway, unless you signed something. I could put up a sign on my front door saying “anybody entering my house upon invite is subject to murder” but that doesn’t mean I can murder them.

a venue could have a code of conduct and regulations that you agree to by entering its boundaries. i think it is under verbal contract law.

But the only way they could stop you would be via lawsuit, and unacknowledged verbal contract disputes can be pretty difficult to argue. I doubt they’d bother unless you had a professional-level photo sales ring going on.

  1. How do you know that coach is on the up and up, and not working in cahoots with the Federation, or just seeing if you sell photos of his player?
  2. Don’t underestimate the power of attorneys working for large organizations like that. Having worked in a Copyright/Trademark Department at a large movie studio, I know that they have paralegals doing nothing but checking out sources like yours. Just to let you know, it is not personal, but if they knowingly allow you to sell even ONE photo, they can lose their rights to many other photos. (I can explain that in more depth, but won’t waste your time unless you really want to know the how and why.)
  3. I am surprised you don’t just get a professional journalist/photographer credential for these events. Most sport federations allow for professionals to take photos - they just need to know where they are going and have some tracking. Again - legal reasons - you might have to cough up a percentage in some cases.
  4. The Super Bowl is a prime example, especially here in Las Vegas. They came down hard on casinos having big events, with huge screens. Casinos used to charge a nominal fee, you got bunches of free drinks and food and placed your bets and got to watch the games on ginormous screens. That came to a screeching halt overnight - lawsuits flying everywhere! You can still bet on the games, and see the games on “regular” sized televisions, but the big arena Super Bowl events ended fast. They can’t even advertise “Super Bowl”, just “the big game”.
  5. Seems like a risky venture, for paltry returns. You might get away with it, but if you are like every other human being, the next time will be easier for you to rationalize, and then it gets easier and easier and - well, like I say, there are attorneys who get paid big bucks to eventually find people like you.

Sorry to put the kibosh on your side-job. I would still try to go the “legal route” and then you could really focus on doing some advertising, and really making some good money off this!