Gaining accreditation as Wikimedia photographers at sports events
Wikimedian photographer Inisheer
at the Portugal–Argentina match in Geneva last week
Snowboarder at the Champs Leysin championships
On February 9, two members of Wikimedia Switzerland, Inisheer (Fanny Schertzer) and Ludo29 (Ludovic Péron), were officially accredited photographers at the international football "friendly match" between Portugal and Argentina, held at the Stade de Genève (Argentina won 2–1.) Their photos are being uploaded to Commons.
Inisheer shared with The Signpost via IRC what the two had learned about gaining accreditation as Wikimedia photographers, drawing from their experiences with other events; these include a 2008 tall ships show in Brest, the 2009 World Cycling Championships in Mendrisio, ice hockey games, a Prix de Lausanne ballet competition, concerts and, last week, the Champs Leysin snowboard championship. (See earlier Signpost coverage of another of their photography activities: "Paris to Cape North 'raid': 300 nordic images for Commons").
Inisheer explained their tried-and-tested procedure to persuade organizers to admit them as officially accredited photographers: "First of all, we look on the event website to see if there is a form for accreditation requests, and, if so, we just use it. If not, we write a short email, presenting ourselves as photographers and writers for Wikimedia Switzerland, the support structure ('structure de soutien') for Wikipedia in Switzerland", using an @wikimedia.ch e-mail address (the Swiss Chapter also provided them with Wikimedia business cards). They have adjusted the wording learning from their "past mistakes... In short, we banned the words 'association' and 'volunteers' from our mails, as they are synonyms of 'amateur'. The only critical step is when, sometimes, you are asked about your press card number - then we have to mention volunteering to justify the fact that we don't have a press card. But as our communicating skills improve, it's less of an issue now".
Their mail would then continue by mentioning very briefly that Wikipedia is the 5th or 6th most visited website in the world, and then "we kindly ask for two accreditations so that we can work in the best conditions to illustrate the related articles. It's important that your recipients knows at first 1. who you are 2. what you want. They don't care about anything else." Their emails include an illustrated PDF pressbook of about six pages, describing the Wikimedia movement and mentioning their own past work and collaborations. "The hard part is to get the first contacts, to build your reference list. Then, you can say 'they accepted us and they're bigger than you, so you have no reason to reject us'." Another "big mistake" they made early on "was to write our requests in a way that let them think we were asking for a favour, instead of 'you get the chance of being featured on wikipedia with nice photos' ". This disqualifies you at once, she says. Rather than talking to organizers in terms of being given a chance, the photographers take the line that they are part of the media, and as such they can gain accreditation.
Inisheer explains that most pictures of footballers on Commons were obviously taken without accreditation from audience seats, which is often allowed (and organizers of sports events generally appear to be more tolerant than concert organizers – with notable exceptions, see Signpost coverage: "International Olympics Committee issues legal threat over Creative Commons photography"). However, one has to be lucky or wealthy enough to get a very good seat and there are still quality benefits in being able to shoot pictures directly from the sidelines. Of course equipment makes a difference, too – the Swiss Chapter financially supported their purchase of a 300 mm f/2.8 lens.
Inisheer also regards accreditation as a valuable outreach tool: "As we ask for an accreditation, we're getting in contact with people in the name of Wikimedia CH, saying 'hi, we exist, we do this and this and this, that makes us a noteworthy media', and most of them like to meet some of the real people who build Wikipedia... Initially, we thought that organizers would be interested in getting free pictures of their events, but it's rarely the case. Sometimes, it even scares them. So we don't emphasize the license."
Asked if she shared the concerns of some other Wikimedia photographers about commercial reuse (see Signpost coverage: "Making money with free photos"), Inisheer said that "I think it's quite clear that Wikipedia is available for commercial purposes, the help pages keep nothing secret about this. So if someone feels uncomfortable with that, and I fully understand that POV, they should stop contributing." For herself, she didn't consider it much of a concern: "When I google my name, I find tons of reuses of my pictures, mainly on personal blogs and reports of NGOs, public services and so on. The only commercial reuses I noticed were by newspapers, I've seen nobody make a thousand million bucks with my work. My only concern would be to see one of my pictures used in a way I would strongly disagree with, like propagating racist opinions, and in such cases, I could invoke my moral rights, which stay attached to the author under European laws." Regarding violations of the requirements of the CC-BY-SA license, she recalled a television station that reused one of her photos without credits: "I wrote a mail and they apologized. The license is often not credited, though, but as long as the reuser doesn't claim his own copyright on it, it's ok for me."
See also related Signpost coverage: "Wikimedians accredited as photographers at royal wedding"