This is a story about the new forbidden fruit – picture taking at public events. After the Cobourg Highland Festival was washed out with a downpour, your PhotoFinishes editor wearing a PhotoFinishes cap and trying to rescue the day went down to the Cobourg Beach to catch the storm clouds over Lake Ontario. The graying Nimbus clouds were streaked with shimmering wind shear streaks in the distance. However, there was a small problem – the beach was littered with beach volleyball nets ruining the haunting, near-deserted, rainy day beach shots desired. Okay, so adapt. Do what others are doing – taking snaps of some of the beach volleyball games with a riot of cameras: handheld, compacts, cellphone and even an SLR. Some are pickup games and others are part of an Ontario Volleyball Tournament.
Now four years ago yours truly with Sportpics covered the National Volleyball Championships that were held for 3 years in a row on these very same Cobourg’s beaches. Covering those tournaments one quickly picked up the etiquette of not getting in the way of the players. Stay close to the net poles on the opposite end from where the referees stand – it has a bonus of being where some of the best slam shots, curves, and blocks can be snapped up.
Since two friends have kids playing serious volleyball I asked the scorers what age group the players are from. At that point Ms Officious arrives and asks “What am I doing.” Hunh? Taking pictures of the game since I cant get the beach shots desired because of the games here. “What organizations do you represent ? “- PixOfCanada, why? We covered the National tournaments here several times and I gave Ms. Officious my card. “Well you can’t take pictures there you are getting in the way of the game.” What? I am trying to get enough pictures for a story that will be run on the PixofCanada website. It will garner 30,000 readers per month for Ontario Volleyball. But the game is mediocre and Ms. Officious is like one of P.G.Wodhouse’s comic snapping terriers – so anxious to bite and snip at you, finding a better match seems the best course of action.
Three courts up the beach, the senior men are playing a very sharp game. Some great digs, even from full-blast slams. This is story worthy. But five minutes in Ms. P.R. Prettyface from Ontario Volleyball comes over and says “You cant take pictures here” . What? This is a public beach and your courts are in the way of the shots I originally came for. “Well you have to apply beforehand to get approval to take pictures … and its too late to do that”. But if I can get a few more pictures that will make a great story which I will publish on PixofCanada – you don’t want to miss out on 30,000 readers per month? “Nope, you cant take any more pictures” So I asked MS. P.R. to take me to her Ontario Volleyball Leader and sure enough he wanted to slit his own organizations best interests.
If you have detected a note of exasperation – you are an astute reader. Here are the reasons why:
1)The venue is a public park and beach paid for in part by PixofCanada tax payments. Since when could you not take pictures in a public park?
2)There were others taking pictures of the games – that was what convinced a change of heart from deserted beach to beach volleyball pictures.
3)There was no signage whatsoever declaring that this was an event at which picture-taking was forbidden.
4)Since this photographer had covered beach volleyball before, there was utmost observation of the proper picture taking etiquette while near the courts.
5)Finally there were some obvious questions. Does an event vendor using public property buy the right to decide who can take picture of the event? And are the city and county governments knowingly ceding this right of exclusive picture-taking to the event vendors? Also relevant – are governments charging extra for such privileges and demanding that advertising before the event and signage at the days of the event make this prohibition clear to prospective event goers?
So one can only conclude that Ontario Volleyball assumed that by renting the park for a period of time it had also been granted by the city of Cobourg and the county of Northumberland the right to designate who could and could not take pictures of the event.
It turns out Ontario Volleyball are not alone. Event sponsors using public property being used for public events with paid admission or not are reserving the right to prohibit picture-taking but not informing the public that they are doing so. A colleague discovered that at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto last year where pictures were confiscated and destroyed with the Toronto Police supporting Royal Winter Fair officials again without any signage or pre-event advertising warning photographers of the prohibition. Ditto on no more picture-taking for some photographers at Wakefest even though they were standing outside the grounds on the other side of the lagoon down on Toronto Islands a few years ago.
At least the Ice KiteFest near Orillia informs the prospective event go-er on their website [no confirmation that this is carried through on print advertising] that no picture taking is allowed except for designated individuals – so though attractive, this party does not go there despite the invitations.
For most events people want to take pictures or videos as a memento of the occasion. This is in conflict sometimes with event vendors that want to charge for those “services”. Think of the New York Yankees or the Toronto Blue Jays. In the case of the Blue Jays, many don’t go to the games because a)the product has not improved since 1993, b)the prices are sky high and c)taking pictures is in a state of limbo – sometimes its okay and other times it is not. Baseball which used to be a fun, inexpensive and photo-memorable outing is no longer so in Toronto.
But these event vendors have to take into account the fact that digital cameras which already have exploded in popularity have been supplemented by hundreds of millions of cellphone cameras. So now it is estimated that there are about 4 cameras per family in North America. These people want to take pictures of the places and events they go to – this is in conflict with event vendors like Ontario Volleyball or the Toronto Blue Jays who want to control who gets to take images of their events and may or may not clearly warn customers of those restrictions – especially in their pre-event and on site advertising. Unfortunately this is an ongoing conflict of interest that will likely get much more contentious before it gets resolved.
If you have experienced episodes of this forbidden picture taking – please make a comment and it will be added as soon as possible.