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Posted by: Maricopa Lawyers on Oct 28, 2013

A recent Forbes  article probes whether the NFL is committing copyright infringement through the use of photos without consent. Is it possible one of the highest grossing major league sports will be facing lawsuits in the future?

It appears some of these copyright lawsuits are already well underway. A group of seven photographers filed a joint lawsuit through the Southern District of New York against the National Football League, Replay Photos, Getty Images and the Associated Press.

The lawsuit specifically cites damages from copyright infringement, breach of contract and a breach of fiduciary duty. The filing party claims the NFL has repeatedly used photos without consent for personal use of advertisements, news, promotions and various merchandise throughout the league.

The use of photographer photos through a business is a tricky subject. Photographers most often license their work through a third-party agent. The photographers at the center of the suit claim they actually possess exclusive rights over the copyrighted photos, meaning unlike many others in their field, ownership was never transferred to an agent.

The plaintiffs are well known for their work within the NFL, having photographed hundreds of games and amassed thousands of photos. Many of the photographers make modest wages photographing games and retaining exclusive rights to their work and earning royalties.

In stark contrast to the plaintiffs, the NFL is a multi-billion dollar industry – easily the highest-grossing American sport. An attorney representing the filers suggested it was ‘shameful’ such a successful industry would undercut the work of individuals making far less.

Insiders consider the lawsuit a huge risk on behalf of the plaintiffs, potentially jeopardizing their careers. Their actions could better protect freelance photographers in the future.