A group of photographers has filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against the National Football League for copyright infringement issues. The plaintiffs assert that the NFL has used their photos in violation of their copyrights and without their consent in advertisements, products, promotions and news stories appearing in Ohio and elsewhere.
An industry practice in photography is for photographers to license their photos to third-party licensing agents. This enables outside parties such as the NFL to pay a certain fee to use the photos. In the present case, the photographers were the sole and exclusive owners of their photos and claim that they had not transferred their copyrights in the photos to any licensing agent.
The former director of the league’s photographic services division is serving as the lead plaintiff in the case, and the other plaintiffs are also photographers who have taken photographs at hundreds of NFL games. Many of these photographers work as freelance artists, and accordingly are only paid through royalties earned in licensing agreements. The complaint alleges that the NFL has committed willful copyright infringement and has used thousands of photos without consulting the photographers.
The photographers filing this lawsuit are concerned about potential backlash from photo licensing agencies. They currently seek a permanent injunction to stop the NFL from using or selling their work in future advertisements, promotions, products and other means. The photographers also seek statutory damages under the Copyright Act as well as damages resulting from the lost licensing revenue. Other defendants named in the complaint include Getty Images and the Associated Press, against whom the plaintiffs are seeking damages based on breach of contract and violation of fiduciary duties.
Source: Forbes, “Is The NFL Committing Copyright Infringement By Using Photos Without Consent?“, Darren Heitner, October 23, 2013