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Copyright infringement and commercial use by pro sports league.

Longwood, FL |

Two years ago I began photographing just about everything for the United Football League. I was paid, slowly but paid. This past season (2010) I again was hired by the league, not the local team. Despite numerous polite request, I have not been paid and my intellectual property continues to be used. I have sent cease and desist letters asking for it to stop - not a bench C&D. Just tonight I found another of my photographs used, but cropped to the point where only I would notice that it is mine.

My agreement with the league was pretty simple, they had open-ended license to use the photos any way they needed. I retained copyright, it was NOT a work for hire nor was I league employee.

Do I have grounds for a Copyright case?

Attorney Answers 4


  1. No, but it sounds like you have a breach of license agreement case. See an IP litigator for help.

    PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE YOU COMMENT, EMAIL ME OR PHONE ME. I'm only licensed in CA. This answer doesn't make me your lawyer, and neither do follow-up comments and/or emails and/or phone calls, and you shouldn't expect me to respond to your further questions if you haven't hired me. We need an actual agreement confirmed in writing before any attorney-client relationship is formed. This answer doesn't constitute legal advice, and shouldn't be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue.


  2. If the league has a license, it is not infringing your copyright. If the league is not paying you under the license agreement, you could sue the league for breach of contract to collect the money owed under the license agreement. If the terms of the license agreement allow you to terminate the license, then you could terminate the copyright license and sue the league to prevent further use of your work in a copyright infringement lawsuit. You should consult with a copyright attorney to discuss the specific facts of your case and how you should proceed. Good luck.

    This answer is for informational purposes only. It is not intended as specific legal advice regarding your question. The answer could be different if all of the facts were known. This answer does not establish an attorney-client relationship.


  3. I agree with my colleagues.
    You may have a breach of contract claim here. Depending on how your agreement was worded, you may also have a copyright infringement claim. Careful wording of your agreements from the beginning can really help to protect you and your work in situations like these.
    You should check with an IP litigator, and see what your next steps should be.
    Good luck.

    This is not intended as legal advice. This does not create an attorney-client relationship.


  4. You may be able to go after them under another theory and that is provided by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Section 1202 (b) bans the removal of copyright management information (CMI), defined at section 1202 (c) to include removal of name and other identifying information. If it turns out that by their cropping your photographs, they have removed information about yourself, etc., you may very well have a good DMCA case against them.
    Get your lawyer to track down a recent case titled: Peter Murphy v Millennium Radio Group, LLC, decided by the 3rd Circuit (No. 10-2163). In that case, the court found that removal of the credit on the inner margin for the photographer (gutter credit) was removal of CMI. Good luck.

    LEGAL DISCLAIMER: Please note that this comment does not constitute legal advice nor has an attorney-client relationship been created.The law may vary depending on the state in which you reside or the jurisdiction where the activity took place. This comment is intended only to give some direction in which to seek further guidance.