Copyright Infringement Involving Sports Photographs

When someone uses your sports photo without permission, an actionable copyright violation may occur.

Federal laws protect photographers from the unauthorized use of their work, including sports photographs. Professional and amateur photographers capture sports photographs at a wide range of events and venues, ranging from games to practices, exhibitions to parades, fund raisers to press conferences. These sports photos receive automatic copyright protection under federal law. If someone publishes your sports photographs without permission or license, you may be entitled to substantial damages.

Photographers are Often Not Compensated for Their Work

All too often, photographers work long hours to take those special photographs that capture the action and emotion at a sporting event. Whether a big play at a football or baseball game, a player being fouled in basketball, a fight in a hockey game, or any other sport, the right picture makes all the difference.

As a photographer, you may take hundreds of shots, trying to freeze a moment in time, to tell a story, convey an emotion or simply document an important moment in sports. Sports photographers work long and difficult hours, may work seven days a week, and face challenges in being compensated for their work product.

When you do your work, you create your art, and it is used without your permission, another company or person benefits from it without compensating you. This is unfair and unlawful under federal copyright laws.

Too Many Publishers Feel Sports Photographs Can Simply Be Republished

The law is on your side – you own the copyrights to your sports photographs the moment you snap the photo. They are your photographs and you are free to display them as you see fit – on your social media sites, websites, or as images for sale (licensing them to others).

Has a publisher used your photographs from any of the following events without your permission?

  • Baseball game photographs
  • Football game photographs
  • Hockey game photographs
  • Soccer match photographs
  • Basketball game photographs
  • NASCAR race photographs
  • Horse racing photographs
  • Marathon race photographs
  • Triathlon race photographs
  • Amateur sporting event photographs

Or perhaps they have violated your copyright with respect to photos of athletes:

  • Photographs of professional athletes
  • Photos of amateur athletes
  • Photos of college athletes
  • Photos of high school athletes
  • Photographs of child athletes

Publishers are Not Allowed to Use Your Sports Photos without Permission or License

Rather than paying for a license to use your sports photos, many publishers will simply find an image they like, copy it and use it on their own. Even if they credit you with the image, it is still a violation of your copyright.

These are your photographs and you are free to use them as you see fit. You can give certain publishers the right to use them for a fee – or for free if you choose. That does not create a blanket permission to the world to reproduce and republish your copyright protected work.

In some extreme cases, these people go even further, not only using the image, but using it in expanded ways, such as the creation of merchandise (T-shirts, coffee mugs, etc.). This not only violates your copyright in the photograph, but goes beyond your own rights and infringes on the rights of the athlete, known as the athlete’s right of publicity. While you are not violating that right, it does create the potential that you could be named in a lawsuit by the athlete’s law firm.

A Sports Photography Copyright Violation Lawsuit Can Protect Your Rights

When a publisher uses your sports photograph in violation of your rights, a copyright violation occurs under federal copyright laws. By registering your copyright at the federal level, we establish a basis for you to recover what are known as “statutory damages” – a predefined range of monetary damages you can be awarded for the violation. You may also be entitled to actual damages, where the damages for the unauthorized use of your copyright protected sports photograph produced measurable damages.

Before we file your claim, we need to ensure that you have a valid copyright registration filed. Our attorneys can help you with this process.

The law is complex, and our experienced copyright infringement lawyers can help protect your rights.

Our Copyright Lawyers Protect Sports Photographers

Our law firm focuses its practice on copyright violations, protecting the rights of photographers. Many photographers are independent, without the legal team publishers have on their side. We are the law firm for photographers, enabling them to go toe-to-toe with publishers large and small, ensuring that you are paid for your work.

Photographers Around the World Trust Our Attorneys

While we are based in the US, our clients come from across the globe. We are not afraid to represent our clients against any publisher and fight hard for a fair and just outcome for our clients. If you are a sports photographer and your rights are violated, you need to speak with our copyright attorneys to see how we can protect you, your rights and your work.

Contact Liebowitz Law Firm, PLLC to Discuss Your Case

If your sports photograph has been published without your permission, you may have a claim for copyright infringement. You may be entitled to substantial damages. Contact the experienced copyright lawyers at Liebowitz Law Firm, PLLC today to discuss your case. Call us at (800) 778-1660 or submit the contact form on this page. Reach out to us today.