US Olympic Committee Sued For Republishing Ping Pong Picture
The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has been sued for copyright infringement. Kevin Downs, a professional photographer, has filed his lawsuit against against the USOC in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, alleging that a photo he captured at an outside ping pong match in New York City has been used without his permission.
The photo, attached to Downs’ Complaint as an exhibit, was previously registered by Downs with the U.S. Copyright Office. Downs complains that the USOC ran an article on the TeamUSA.org website that it owns and operates, featuring the copyrighted photo without Downs’ consent.
It is a very basic, one-count Complaint for copyright infringement. Downs says that the USOC willfully, intentionally and purposefully infringed on his rights and that he is entitled to damages and the USOC’s profits pursuant to relevant statutory law.
In reviewing the actual use, it shows that the USOC properly provided attribution attached to the photo. It reads, “Daily News/Kevin C. Downs.” While that, alone, does not provide USOC the right to republish the image, it is a sign of good faith.
Further, it is hard to tell just how the use is done in a commercial manner or that it prevents Downs from commercial exploitation of his work in any way. While Downs may have missed out on a potential licensing fee in this case, the image does not seem to be so important for the purpose of the article that it was a necessary element that the publisher benefitted from to any great extent.
Downs’ photograph was a public work that was used as part of an article that disseminated facts and information to benefit the public. The article was informing the public that the streets in Midtown New York City were car-free in order to provide for outdoor festivities, including ping pong. The picture demonstrates the performance of ping pong on the streets.
While Downs may have a perfectly viable copyright on his photograph, it does not necessarily mean he has the best case against the USOC in this instance.