Wed, Sep 05, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Media groups, IRB clash over World Cup coverage


Four days before the opening match of the rugby World Cup, a global coalition representing news agencies and newspapers was still at odds with the International Rugby Board (IRB) concerning coverage of the event.

Despite progress on several fronts over the last two weeks, two points of contention concerning photographs remain -- how many can be published on Web sites during a World Cup match and whether the IRB is entitled to use media photos freely once the tournament is over.

"Serious issues remain that may have an impact of news coverage of rugby's World Cup," the coalition said on Monday in a statement.

The World Cup starts on Friday at the Stade de France near Paris. There are 20 teams competing for a spot in the final on Oct. 20.

The coalition represents The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Reuters, DPA and Getty, as well as a number of leading international newspapers.

At an Aug. 21 meeting in Dublin, the coalition requested that Web sites be allowed to publish a maximum of one photo per second during each match. The IRB did not reject the proposal.

But in a subsequent letter to the media coalition, the IRB said only 40 to 50 photos would be allowed to be published on Web sites per match, far less than what the coalition wanted. On Monday, journalists picking up accreditations in France were asked to sign terms and conditions that said only 10 to 12 photos could be published per match.

"In all other tournaments we've had it's been five to eight photos," IRB head of communications Greg Thomas said on Sunday night in a telephone interview with the AP. "Our last World Cup was five or six per half. We have agreed to increase that 400 percent."

The International Olympic Committee allows media to send unlimited amounts of photos and text during its events, and FIFA repealed the restrictions it had on photos for the last soccer World Cup.

The other issue concerns copyrighted photos. The IRB wanted the right to use any photos taken at the World Cup for its own purposes free of charge and without signing a license.

"The coalition has offered to give favorable consideration to IRB requests [for a license] for photos -- which the IRB verbally accepted in a meeting, though it later reversed itself and insisted that the news media be obligated to allow the IRB use of copyrighted photos," the coalition said.

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