Is the National Football League allowed to use photographs without consent? That is the question at the crux of a new copyright infringement lawsuit that has been filed by a team of seven photographers against several defendants, including the National Football League. The lawsuit also mentions Getty Images, the Associated Press and Replay Photos.
According to the lawsuit, the photographs have been used by these agencies, although the plaintiffs continue to retain copyrights to the photographs. It’s common for news agencies and other parties to use photographs, especially when these are licensed photographs that have been distributed through third-party licensing agents. However, in this particular case, the photographers claim that they never transferred any of their copyrights to any agents. According to their lawsuit, they continue to remain the sole and exclusive copyright owners of these photographs.
The team of photographers that has filed the lawsuit include some of the most well-known sports photographers, who have photographed hundreds of games and events for the National Football League. They work as freelance photographers, and are not on the NFL payroll. They make an income by earning royalties on the photographs that they license out to others, and retaining the copyrights on their photographs.
According to the lawsuit, the National Football League has acquired and used thousands of photographs that were taken by the lensmen with no regard for the rights of owners of these pictures. The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit who also happens to be a former director of the National Football League’s Photographic Services Division claims that the NFL blatantly violated the photographers’ rights, to avoid paying appropriate license fees