AP and LPGA Reach Credential Agreement For Fields Open

 The Associated Press announced today in New York that they have reached an agreement with the Ladies Professional Golf Association on "significant issues" in a dispute about media credentials that arose over coverage of the LPGA Fields Open golf tournament this week in Kapolei, Hawaii.

AP had been refused credentials to cover the tournament when they would not sign a credential agreement that contained new restrictions on use of its stories and photographs. On Thursday the National Press Photographers Association voiced support for AP’s refusal to agree to the LPGA’s new credential requirements, and Hawaii's two largest daily newspapers also refused to cover the golf match in support of AP's stance and in objection to the credential's terms.

AP says today's agreement enables them to provide full coverage of the Fields Open tournament this weekend while still continuing to disagree with parts of the new requirements. The discussions with the LPGA over future media credential requirements will continue, AP says. One of the new restrictions AP had objected to is that photographers, by signing the credential form, were agreeing that the LPGA had an unlimited, perpetual right to use their photographs for free. AP, backed by several other news organizations, refused to agree with the terms required by the credential consent form and, as a result, said they would not cover this weekend's tournament.

Today in a joint statement the AP and LPGA said they had resolved "the most significant issues." "The LPGA has always intended for its credentials to provide media companies with the same rights to use news and information obtained at LPGA events that are available from other mainstream sports leagues and governing bodies," the statement said.

"AP is satisfied with assurances from LPGA that its regulations were never intended to and don't limit access or editorial use of information and photos obtained at their events," it said. As part of the agreement, the LPGA will include a provision in its future credential regulations that permit media outlets to make unrestricted editorial use of any images or articles they create as part of their access to LPGA events.

AP did not have reporters or photographers covering the first round of play in Kapolei on Thursday, while some foreign golf journalists and television organizations who had already signed the credential agreement continued to cover the first day of play.

Still unresolved after today's joint statement and agreement is an LPGA provision that gives the association broad rights to make promotional use of stories and photographs produced by journalists who are covering LPGA events. AP's story today quotes AP's assistant general counsel, Dave Tomlin, as saying, "We're still discussing that with LPGA. In the meantime, they've said that the provision is optional for the Fields, and we've opted out." Apparently AP journalists were allowed to "cross out" offending sections of the credential agreement this one time, for the Fields Open, while credential discussions continue between the LPGA and news organizations.

On Thursday, the presidents of the AP Managing Editors, AP Sports Editors, and AP Photo Managers associations - representing 1,800 newspapers who are members of the AP in the United States and The Canadian Press in Canada - sent a letter to the LPGA in support of the AP's decision. The National Press Photographers Association also voiced support. Honolulu's two daily newspapers - both sponsors of the tournament - also pulled their coverage after their reporters and photographers refused to sign the LPGA's coverage agreement.

In a wire bulletin on Wednesday, AP informed its members that it would not provide photographic coverage of the LPGA tournament this weekend. AP sent members this advisory: "Photo Editors and Sports Editors - Due to restrictions on photo usage imposed when signing the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) photo credential application, The Associated Press will not be able to provide photo coverage from this weekend's golf tournament in Hawaii. We are in discussions with the LGPA and will advise if the situation changes. The AP."

In an AP story about the credential dispute, AP sports editor Terry Taylor said, "Any stories and photos produced by AP staffers belong to AP. We cannot accept this attempt by the LPGA to put such severe limits on AP's editorial use of its own work, and we can't accept any demand that AP provide free use of its material as a condition for being allowed to cover an event."

See yesterday's story here.