CFD should cowboy up on images


July 15, 2009

Cheyenne Frontier Days has seen the error of its ways. At least in terms of its policy on using video cameras at its rodeo and slack events.

Earlier this year CFD officials announced a ban on such devices, which would have included cell phones and "still" digital cameras, many of which can shoot video clips. But they recently rescinded that. They now will allow the use of such devices, provided the images are for personal use.

That Frontier Days has backed off the policy comes as no surprise. It would have been impossible to police, and can you imagine trying to store and return the devices to their owners?

But then this never really was about anything other than trying to silence critics like SHARK (SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness), which uses images from CFD on its Web site to point out alleged mistreatment of rodeo animals.

Unfortunately, Frontier Days still is trying to shut them up, even with the policy change. It now says any commercial use or distribution of these images, including for "advocacy use or fundraising," without its permission is prohibited.

So are CFD volunteers going to patrol the Internet, looking for every "illegal" image posted on, say, YouTube? We doubt that. But you can bet CFD will keep a close watch on its critics' sites.

All of this is silly -- and embarrassing.

Here's the deal:

We are big fans of CFD. It is good for the local economy and the community, and it helps to sell Cheyenne to the world.

But we are not fans of the inhumane treatment of animals. And we are even less supportive of those who would try to hide the truth from the world.

If animals are being mistreated -- officials say they are not -- then CFD needs to fix the problem. The movement against animal abuse is not going away. If Frontier Days wants to hang onto its traditions, it needs to do its rodeos the right way -- or it may find itself legislated out of business.

Trying to keep images off the Web will not solve the problem of groups like SHARK. Indeed, such efforts only imply that Frontier Days has something to hide. And that only adds fuel to the fire, especially in an age when the Internet is open to everyone and anyone. The images are going to go up onto the World Wide Web for all to see, regardless of any policy CFD makes.

Besides, Frontier Days is not even the owner of commercial footage from its event. Rather, that is owned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, which said earlier that it is unconcerned about fans shooting videos. It does allow each rodeo venue to make its own rules as to whether images can be shot.

The way for Cheyenne Frontier Days to counter SHARK and other critics is not to hide behind a cloak of secrecy. Rather, it should cowboy up and fight to maintain its traditions in the arena of public opinion. If CFD officials can't make their case without trying to conceal all video images, then maybe they really have no case at all.

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