The Indian Premier League (IPL) is in the process of transforming the franchising and merchandising of cricket in India: if it has sold itself for more than a billion dollars for a ten-year period, it has been able to auction players for sums ranging from $50,000 to $1.5 million. But the transformation is clearly for the worse, if we can go by the akratic way in which the IPL has sought to dictate terms and conditions for the accreditation of journalists. Under the guise of protecting its intellectual property rights, it issued a set of guidelines for media bristling with unacceptable conditions. The most outrageous condition in the original accreditation guidelines was this clause: “For the avoidance of doubt, IPL shall be entitled to use and reproduce, free of charge, worldwide and without limit in time any and all photographs/images captured by the Accredited Party at any ground and the Accredited Party shall make the same available promptly [within 24 hours of a match] to the IPL...at his/her cost.” But with the Editors Guild of India and the Indian Newspaper Society teaching the fledgling a lesson or two in realpolitik, IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi promised a revision of the guidelines based on the discussions.
However, as the Editors Guild has pointed out correctly, the revised terms and conditions “still contain clauses unacceptable to the media and would seriously affect the independence of the editors, especially when it comes to the selection and use of photographs.” No self-respecting media organisation is likely to accept the IPL’s over-the-top demand that newspapers and news agencies must make available to IPL “for use and reproduction, free of charge, worldwide and without limit in time” all photographs and images requested. Or the blanket prohibition on the use of pictures taken by a newspaper or news agency for online use or syndication. Or the quantitative limit (of six) imposed on the number of photographs that may be uploaded by a newspaper or news agency on its website. The news agencies faced monetary demands in November 2007 from Cricket Australia before the Brisbane Test against Sri Lanka; but a one-match boycott had a salutary impact. FIFA dropped curbs on digital publication of photographs during the 2006 football World Cup following a worldwide boycott threat. Last year, the rugby World Cup ran into a similar problem from international agencies before a compromise was reached. These sports bodies have much to learn from the progressive, open, and access-promoting attitude of the International Olympic Committee. After all, where will professional sport be without media support, cooperation, and goodwill? Greed and arrogance and a total lack of common sense seem to be driving the IPL along a path of confrontation, which will surely bring on a media boycott.