Row rages on over Rugby World Cup image rights

News organisations remain locked in a dispute over image rights with the organisers of the Rugby World Cup, despite a last-minute compromise from the International Rugby Board.

The IRB is still claiming the right to use free of charge all pictures taken at the World Cup and has maintained restrictions on the reporting of the tournament, ranging from how pictures should appear in newspapers to how many ‘live’pictures newspapers can put online.

A coalition of news organisations from across the world disputed that publishing any amount of stills online would undermine the broadcast rights after the IRB told them the limit should be five per half.

Last week new rules put the limit up to 50 per game – 20 per half and five for each period of extra time.

The IRB attempted to quell growing opposition among sports journalists from across the world at a meeting at its Dublin headquarters two weeks ago, but talks stalled after the board refused to back down over the future use of pictures and the website restrictions.

The coalition said in a statement: ‘For months we have attempted to safeguard our desire to bring news of the event to the public through our legitimate editorial operations.

‘We have twice travelled to the IRB’s Dublin headquarters.

‘These meetings have led to progress in removing some coverage restrictions imposed by the IRB, including their original desire to determine how pictures appeared on our news pages and rules that were seen to limit freedom of expression. However, the IRB has gone back on some other outcomes of the most recent Dublin meeting, particularly in its refusal to fully recognise news media copyrights.”

Andy Moger, of the Newspaper Publishers’ Association, said the IRB had unnecessarily let the rights row become a distraction from the sporting occasion.

Keir Radnedge, chairman of the football commission of the International Sports Writers’ Association, said: ‘The point of this is different for every organisation – for me it’s about the right of freedom of expression.

‘This in the first tournament where we have got together and said this was wrong.

‘This is taking a huge sledgehammer to crack a tiny nut.”

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