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We won't sign

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You may notice in this Sunday morning's newspaper and online at that there won't be any racing photographs from Saturday's Thunder Swamp sprint boat races outside East Wenatchee.

The photography staff knew they were happening and know from last year it would have been a good photographic opportunity.

But because the United States Sprint Boat Association (USSBA) could require us to hand over all of our digital files of boat crashes if we signed a licensing agreement to photograph the event, we have chosen to go elsewhere for Sunday's newspaper.

We are protective of our images and don't make unpublished photographs available to the public.

The issue we have with the USSBA actually started last year when, following their media instructions, I showed up at the racing site to pay a $20 deposit for a media vest that would allow me access to the racing area.

When I arrived however, I was told by Jim DeFord, the USSBA Media Relations Director, I needed to sign the Photo/Video Media Information Policy & Procedures form before I could gain access. On last year's form, a licensing agreement stated:

"There are no licensing fees for the 2010 season. However, by signing this document, you agree to provide any photo or video to the USSBA and/or the track owners where you recorded your material. Failure to honor such requests will result in denial of current and/or future credential requests."

Now that was quite a shock for me. I have covered many professional events including Seahawk football games, Sonics basketball games, car races, baseball games, University of Washington and Washington State University football games, PGA and LPGA golfing events and have never been asked to sign a release that would require images to be turned over to anyone.

I refused to sign the document and Mr. DeFord eventually agreed to cross out the licensing part of the form and let me photograph the event without the conditions.

This year, I found a media credentials form on the USSBA web site on June 29, wanting to know if there was going to be another problem getting access to the event this July. Looking down the form to the Licensing paragraph I saw that the wording had changed and now said:

"LICENSING: There are currently no licensing fees charged to any photographers. Please clear any onsite sales through the appropriate track owner(s) before attempting to sell any items at the tracks. The USSBA may request a copy of a photograph or video. This is a very rare occasion, but it may occur for any event. The photographer or videographer always retains full rights to their material. If the USSBA requests and uses any material, the owner will be given full credits. Note that photos and videos could possibly be used to investigate an accident. All credentialed media will comply and cooperate with such a request."

I emailed Mr. DeFord with my objections to this wording, saying that 1) the USSBA may request any published image in the form of a print but they would be required to pay for them and they couldn't be used for promotional or advertising purposes and 2) we will not turn over photographs of accidents unless those pictures were published.

Mr. DeFord's response on July 6 was that the USSBA would not request any photos from The Wenatchee World for this one race and had reworded, once again, its photo credential requirement that they would accept no less than full resolution, unaltered digital photos (not prints).

He went on to say the they would NEVER bend to the requirement for us to turn over crash photos to be used in an accident investigation, an accident he writes would most likely mean very serious injuries or death. He went on to say they would never publish photos with that content under any circumstances. However, if published, all photographers will receive full and complete credits.

The Wenatchee World cannot agree to those terms and so unfortunately will forgo coverage of the race except to report in the near future on East Wenatchee's financial impact from the race.

So photographers out there - beware - always look closely at what you are signing and what you are signing away.