Don’t Let This Happen: Copyrighted Image Infringement
At Little League® International and in our Region Offices, calls and emails come in all year long about situations that are happening at one of our local leagues. Many of these calls and emails inform us of some positive initiatives spearheaded by our millions of volunteers. However, there are also negative situations. Situations featured in our “Don’t Let This Happen” series detail a real-world scenario, how it has impacted a league, and how you might learn from it.
The names have been changed in the following scenario, but the situation is real.
A local league wants to utilize its social media platforms and its website to promote recruitment of volunteers and player registration. In doing so, the league’s Public Relations/Social Media Coordinator downloaded various youth baseball, Little League World Series, and Major League Baseball images found through a Google image search that she felt would “fit” with the various promotions. Soon after posting the photos and promotions on the league’s website, the Public Relations/Social Media Coordinator receives an email request from the original license holders, stating the photos need to be removed immediately, or royalties in excess of a thousand dollars are to be paid for the photos that the local league used without permissions.
Immediately after being notified about the copyright infringement, the league consulted with its District Administrator and soon after, the Region staff. After elevating the situation to the Communications Department at Little League International in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and based on the assessment of the situation, the league removed the posts from its social media pages and website and were required to work with the photo owner on any further actions.
Through this experience, the league learned about the importance of obtaining permissions prior to using photos, even if they may have been taken at a Little League event. In this situation, the goal of using the photos was to promote local league activity and there was no malicious intent. Regardless of the intentions, leagues are required to respect copyright restrictions and are not permitted to use photos found on the Internet without first receiving permission from the owner of the photo(s).
To avoid this type of promotional misstep, Little League International strongly encourages its leagues to utilize photos taken of their own leagues, with permission from the parents/guardians of all involved. To help obtain those permissions, leagues are encouraged to download the Sample Form Release and Waiver from the media section of the Forms and Publications page on LittleLeague.org, customize it, and have parents/guardians sign these documents during registration. Keep the form on file with the League Secretary, then encourage league officials and parents to provide photos to the league’s Public Relations/Social Media Coordinator. The submitted photos would be used exclusively for online promotion and sharing of information about the league. Additionally, look to see if any of your league’s volunteers have a photography background, and try and set up a day to take photos of all your players, including team photos and action shots that can be used throughout the year.