Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Use of Your Likeness at Sporting Events

All professional sports teams, as far as I know, include language on the back of their tickets mirroring this policy from the San Diego Padres:
This ticket grants MLB, National League, Padres and anyone authorized by the Padres irrevocable permission to use the holder's voice, image or likeness for any live or recorded video display, broadcast or other transmission, reproduction or other depiction in any media now or hereafter existing for any legal purpose without the consent of the holder.
In other words, by showing up at the game, you agree that your image may be published in newspapers, posters, and team promotional materials. You might be shown on TV attending the game, even if you told your boss you were sick that day. Your heckling may be heard on the radio broadcast, even if you've had too much to drink.

It's nearly impossible to photograph the game's action without capturing fans in the background. Clearly, requiring the team to get waivers signed for every picture is untenable. A single unaccounted-for person or holdout could stonewall a photo's publication. Teams and fans are both better off when everyone's likeness can be published at will, as it saves considerable expense and headache.

While the chances of any particular fan being photographed are small, being in the wrong place at the wrong time can have long-lasting consequences. You could end up like Steve Bartman, who can't do anything to prevent people from circulating the infamous photo of him arguably interfering with a foul pop-up in the 2003 NLCS, perhaps costing the Cubs a chance at the World Series. Or you could be like Helen Gawn, the nun who caught Bobby Thompson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World" in 1951 when she wasn't supposed to be at the game and who spent the rest of her life making sure no one found out (as amazingly recounted in the book "Miracle Ball").