The Illinois Press Association asked a Sangamon County Circuit judge to strike a counterclaim lawsuit lodged by the Illinois High School Association. The two associations are embattled in litigation regarding access to public high school events and the secondary use of news photos taken at those events. The IPA also filed a motion for an extension of time to file an amended complaint against the IHSA.
Dave Bennett, executive director of the IPA, said his board met Dec. 7 and strengthened its resolve to challenge the IHSA’s practice of limiting newspapers’ access to public high school sporting events unless the newspapers agree to sign away ownership of their own photos.
The IHSA has contracted for several years with Visual Image Photography Inc. out of Wisconsin to serve as the “official” photographer for the IHSA. Bennett said that the IPA does not believe that that gives the IHSA the right to exclude newspapers from equal access or to control the use of news photos.
“The IHSA is trying to control something that it doesn’t own,” Bennett said. “And if we don’t comply, they take away our Constitutional rights to equal access to public events. We can’t sit on the sidelines and let that happen. It’s not up to the IHSA to determine what news is and how it is distributed.”
The IHSA prohibited five newspapers from having field access during the 2007 State Football Finals.
“We made a good faith effort to work with the IHSA on this issue,” Bennett said. “We reached a compromise on some points but still were at odds over the secondary use of photos. We withdrew our legal motion for a preliminary injunction and agreed to discuss the secondary use issue with our board on Dec. 7, but that wasn’t soon enough for the IHSA.” Prior to that meeting, the IHSA prohibited field access for some newspapers and filed a counterclaim against the IPA and The State Journal-Register in Springfield and the Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake. They added the Peoria Journal Star as a third party defendant.
The IPA asked the Court to strike the IHSA’s counterclaim on the basis that it was improperly filed.
The counterclaim responds to a lawsuit that the IPA had already agreed to amend. According to court documents, the IPA was granted a leave to file an amended complaint by Dec. 15 and the IHSA would then have 30 days to respond to that.
On Dec. 5, the IHSA filed its counterclaim and third party complaint without leave to do so. The IPA argues that the IHSA’s actions were improper and legally null.
The IPA also asked the Court to extend its time to file an amended complaint until Jan. 15 due to time-consuming and previously unforeseen commitments for its counsel.