World football’s governing body, FIFA, and the World Association of Newspapers, WAN, announced on 13 March that they had reached agreement to lift all restrictions on digital publication of photographs of the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.
The agreement came after a private meeting between the FIFA President, Joseph S. Blatter, and the Chief Executive Officer of WAN, Timothy Balding, who was also representing a coalition of leading news agencies, including Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, Reuters, Getty Images, DPA and EPA.
Mr Blatter said : “Our talks were constructive and reflected FIFA’s intent to come to a mutually beneficial solution. Today, almost all print media of relevance have their own web edition and reader preferences increasingly underline a shift in consumer habits to access topical information.”
“We understand that the publication of images and text must be treated with the same approach for the sake of maintaining a transparent information management policy that respects the Freedom of the Press.”
“I am satisfied that we have been able to amend the earlier position taken and thus to recognize WAN’s justified requirements.”
“I look forward to an open and ongoing dialogue in the future. In order to avoid future misunderstandings, I have invited WAN to delegate a Member to the FIFA Media Committee where relevant matters pertaining to media relations are discussed openly and constructively”.
Timothy Balding said: "WAN and the world press community warmly welcome this wise and enlightened decision by Mr Blatter, which will benefit tens of millions of readers of newspaper web sites world-wide.
"In eliminating limits on the number of pictures that can be posted on Internet sites and in permitting their free publication during the course of World Cup matches, FIFA is upholding the traditional values of the free press and preserving the full free flow of information to the media and their audiences", he added.
"We acknowledge that this has not been an easy decision for FIFA to take, which is all the more reason for us to be delighted that a common position has now been found".
In order to respect contractual obligations to rights holders, FIFA had originally limited the number of photographs that could be published on the web and required that they should only be published two hours after games ended. WAN and the coalition of news agencies had opposed the restrictions on the grounds that they interfered with media freedom to report.