In this day of Facebook, Instagram and, of course, blogging, it didn’t really happen unless you can share a picture on all of your social media outlets. Racing is no exception. Even if you have a race t-shirt to wear around town and a medal to hang on your wall, you want race photos to remember the pride (or relief) you felt as you crossed the finish line.
- Race photographers provide an important service that requires a significant investment in equipment and technology to execute well. There were over 30,000 runners in the Army Ten Miler. Marathon Photos had identified and collated about 10 photos of me within 48 hours. They must have used some sort of “bib recognition” technology to sift through all the photos that were taken, collect them under each bib number, and then send out emails to each runner with a link to “their” photos. It cost real money to get “my” pictures to my email in-box–why shouldn’t I have to pay for that service?
- Race photographers have to get up just as early as the runners, get on site early, and stay to the end. I don’t know how much companies like Marathon Photos pay their photographers, but I hope they are fairly compensated for the full day of work they put in. When you don’t pay for your photos, that cuts into the company’s profits, and may impact how much they can pay their photographers.
- Races are expensive enough as it is. Instead of giving runners the option of paying for race pictures, race organizers could build the cost of race photos into the entry fee. But races are expensive enough, and not every runner wants a race photo, so I think having race photos as an optional add-on is a fairer alternative.
- You agreed to the photographer’s terms and conditions. The “terms and conditions” notice on the Marathon Photos website includes a term that says “You may not reproduce, display, transmit, distribute or otherwise exploit any of the prints, clips, images, DVD’s or CD’s, or any portion thereof, in any manner, including, without limitation, print or electronic reproduction, publication or any display of photographs, without the prior written consent of Marathon-Photos.Com Ltd.” If you obtained your picture from their website, you technically may have agreed to abide by that term. You could try to plead ignorance, but the big “PROOF” that is plastered across the thumbnails they provide to let you decide which race photos you want to buy (if any) should clue you in that they don’t want you using those images. Marathon Photos has made that even more obvious by slapping “Image for use on Marathon-Photo.com only” across the top and bottom of each preview image.
- The photographer owns the copyright. Under U.S. copyright law (in which I am not an expert), photographers owns the copyright in the pictures they take. While there is a “fair use” exception to copyright infringement, I wouldn’t count on it covering your use of their photos on your blog–although I do hope it covers the one I posted a few years ago to complain about how bad it was. (This Runner’s World column explains why it’s probably illegal to use “your” race photos without paying for them.)
Here’s the Army Ten Miler race photo I paid $26.95 for:
I decided to pay for this race photo because it captures me smiling as I’m running across the 14th Street Bridge, and reflects how hard I worked to pace myself to that point. Do I wish it cost $14.95 instead? Heck, yeah! But I bet one reason race photos are so expensive is because so few people pay for them. Maybe that’s mostly due to the law of “supply and demand” and a sign that Marathon Photos should lower their prices, but maybe it’s also because so many people try to get around paying for race photos they do want by using the proofs.
I don’t want to call anyone out on this, but if you think it’s OK to use race photos without paying for them, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
Do you think “free” race photos should be included in race entry fees?