Cheyenne rodeo snaps new photo/video policy


July 15, 2009

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A long-running rodeo known as the "Daddy of 'em all" thought it had found a way to deal with an animal rights group posting video onto the Web of alleged animal mistreatment at the event – ban all types of video cameras.

The move this year, however, quickly raised complaints from fans who wanted to shoot the action at the 113-year-old Cheyenne Frontier Days for their personal use.

To placate fans and make activists think twice about using pictures or footage, organizers tweaked their policy leading up to this week's start of the rodeo, allowing people to use pictures and video for their private and noncommercial use.

Any other use, including commercial, issue advocacy or fundraising, is banned without the rodeo's permission.

The founder of the animal rights organization seeking changes in the rodeo said the policy was aimed at stopping his group from trying to document what it considers animal abuse, but a rodeo official said it's just trying to protect its product and financial interests.

"We want to put on a good show that people can come and take video and have pictures of them having a great time at the rodeo and the free entertainment, the night shows, the carnival and stuff like that," CFD General Chairman Charlie West said. West said the rodeo was not targeting any specific individuals or groups.

West said if anyone violates the policy the rodeo will consult with its lawyers on what to do.

Steve Hindi, president of the animal rights group SHARK – SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness – said the provision is clearly aimed at his organization, calling it "an anti-SHARK policy."

"It's unbelievable to me," Hindi said. "Can you imagine how long they took worming this back and forth before they got to where they liked it?"

Hindi said the policy appeared arbitrary and not well defined and he planned to attend this year's rodeo with his cameras.

West said if SHARK posts images of the rodeo on its Web site, then it might violate the policy, West said. SHARK's Web site clearly asks for contributions to its cause.

"To me that would be part of this commercial use for profit generation, or promotion or organization and agendas that are not related to Cheyenne Frontier Days," West said. "We need to protect our copyright and our brand."

West said the rodeo was not targeting SHARK, noting that it has had problems with others using CFD rodeo action for profit. "We've had people who are professional photographers doing this," he said.

The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association owns the rights to all commercial video footage from PRCA rodeo events in the arena, but PRCA officials say images taken by spectators and others in the stands are controlled by the local rodeo policies and laws. They vary among the hundreds of rodeos held every year across the nation.

"It's up to each individual rodeo to determine what their policies are going to be about photographing at a rodeo," PRCA spokesman Jim Bainbridge said.

Other rodeos have instituted similar policies.

For instance, the Greeley Stampede in northeast Colorado in recent years has posted a sign at entrances prohibiting the "display of any photos and video of any Greeley Stampede event, concert or rodeo, for public dissemination" without prior approval, according to Bill Ogg, executive director of the event.

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