EXCLUSIVE: Cricket Australia's poor Twitter form

Thousands of Aussies will post event photos online this summer, but few are aware of the risks involved.

If you take a photo at an Australian cricket match this summer and publish it to Twitter or Facebook you could be slapped with a ban from Cricket Australia thanks to draconian rules in place to protect media broadcast partners.

Amatuer photographers theoretically risk being “prohibited and disqualified from purchasing tickets for or entering into” any Cricket Australia match or event ever again, but cricket venue entry rules regarding photography are honoured more in the breach than in the observance.

Similar rules apply to AFL matches and the Australian Open tennis tournament.

For a growing number of Australians taking and sharing photos online about events or experiences is done as automatically as breathing air or drinking water.

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Smartphones make up 65 per cent of the Australian mobile market, according to IDC, and even cheap ones can take photos that are more than adequate to publish to social media or for other personal uses, for example taking a photo of your favourite player and using it as phone wallpaper.

Sporting organisations and venues need to understand this and correct the balance protecting the rights of broadcast media partners with the rights of their customers.

At the very least the rules could be loosened to reflect the current reality that at any large sporting match such as test cricket and tennis tournaments, hundreds, if not thousands of spectators will be taking photos and publishing them on the internet. Enforcing the rules as they currently stand is not practically possible.

The Cricket Australia, AFL and Tennis Australia rule that bans cameras with a “total-focal strength of greater than 200mm” is ambiguous depending on how you measure focal length. Do you use the number printed on the side of the camera, or the actual equivalent 35mm length which is a larger number (unless using a full frame professional camera like the Canon 5D Mk II or Nikon D700)? For example with a Pentax K7 SLR a 50-200mm lens could also be considered 75-300mm in 35mm terms.

Security guards at the SCG enforcing these rules are meant to look for “professional” looking cameras due to SCG Trust rules but who defines what a “professional” camera is: the camera manufacturer, venue or sporting organisation?

Digital SLR cameras are now quite affordable and becoming popular with amateur “mum and dad” photographers. Furthermore there are several compact cameras currently available on the market that look small and innocuous but can take good quality photos using their built-in ultrazoom lenses far beyond 200mm.

I attended the Big Bash 20/20 cricket match on January 18 at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) and the entry security guard barely had a look inside my backpack. For the record the backpack contained two cameras that to the best of my knowledge didn’t break the rules: a Pentax K7 SLR with 50-200mm lens, and a small Panasonic FT3 compact. 

Nearby I could see at least half a dozen professional level SLR cameras openly used by spectators to take photos of the crowd and players. One person was using a Canon 5D MkII SLR with 400mm zoom lens (which together would cost well over $4000) that clearly qualifies as a professional level camera - a setup whose discovery by security staff could theoretically lead to a ban.

That’s not to mention the dozens of Apple and Android smartphones nearby which were being used to take photos and possibly videos to share with friends and family on the internet.

It may be the case that the rules are enforced with more rigour during larger or international level events. We discussed the issue with several photographers and a significant proportion said they have had their bags thoroughly searched for professional grade camera gear during entry to sporting venues like the SCG.

While the ban on spectators at sporting venues using camera tripods is fair because they would impede spectator movement, the sporting organisations need to clearly define what characteristics they feel a banned “professional” camera has, for example a zoom lens longer than a certain physical length (ignoring its focal length), which would block the view of other spectators because of its size.

Sporting organisations should also align their rules with reality and consider allowing photos to be taken at venues for non-commercial personal uses such as publishing to personal social media accounts like Twitter, Facebook or Flickr.

Regarding legal ramifications Angus Macinnis, Senior Associate at DibbsBarker, says that  Cricket Australia can impose these conditions if they want to, provided they've brought them to the attention of customers at the time tickets were purchased.

"Each contract with each purchaser is a separate and distinct contract, so the fact that Cricket Australia might have let 500 people in with iPhones doesn't mean that they can't enforce that condition [disallowing publishing photos] against me if they choose to do so.

"If CricketAustraliawants people to comply with the conditions of entry, it would make sense to concentrate on the matters which will actually be the subject of enforcement," Macinnes says.

Dominic Villa, a Barrister with Seven Wentworth Chambers in Sydney, told Technology Spectator that even if you were asked to leave a cricket match due to breaching Cricket Australia's photography terms and conditions, you would still have a right to your photographs.

"One thing they [Cricket Australia] can't do, and haven’t asserted the right to do, is confiscate your photographic equipment/memory cards or to require you to delete the photos on your memory card. That would require an express term, which does not appear in the current terms and conditions."

Cricket Australia was asked to respond to this article but had not responded at the time of publication. 

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