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Houston Photographer Filed a Copyright Lawsuit Against NFL Star for Posting on Instagram

Photographer Sues Deshaun Watson for Copyright Infringement on Instagram

Be careful of what you post on Instagram – even if the subject of the photo is you. Deshaun Watson, the quarterback for the Houston Texans, is learning this the hard way.

A Houston-based freelance photographer has sued Watson for the alleged unauthorized use of his photos. The lawsuit stems from Watson’s posting of pictures of himself on Instagram- photos that another person took. Watson had not secured permission to use those photographs.

Aaron Sprecher, an independent contributor to The Associated Press, said that Watson infringed on his copyright when Watson posted at least three photographs that Sprecher made. Sprecher further alleged that Watson never obtained any license or permission from Sprecher, the NFL, the AP, or even the Houston Texans.

Sprecher took two of the photos at the heart of the lawsuit before a 2017 game between the Texans and the Bengals. One picture is of Watson in a suit, wearing headphones, and another of Watson in uniform, ready to take the field. Combined, these photos racked up nearly 150,000 likes on Instagram. Sprecher took the third photo in question at the pro bowl practice. It is of Watson signing autographs.

This lawsuit is one of the many complaints filed by photographers against celebrities who use their photos without permission or license from the creator.

What is Copyright Infringement?

Copyright infringement happens when copyrighted material gets used without the owner’s permission. For example, when a content creator’s photos, artworks, or videos are used by someone else without the artist’s permission, there might be copyright infringement.

Copyright infringement is sometimes classified into two categories: primary and secondary. A primary infringement involves someone directly infringing on the copyright. A secondary infringement involves someone facilitating the infringement committed by someone else.

Can There be Copyright Infringement If a Person Uses My Photos Even If They Are the Subject?

The short answer is yes. When the subject of your pictures uses them without your permission or a valid license, there can still be copyright infringement. In fact, it is becoming more and more common that photographers assert their rights to pictures they take of celebrities, athletes, and models. Many of these individuals incorrectly assume they can use pictures of themselves any way they want.

For example, as a freelance photographer, you may license your photographs to online stock photo platforms. You enter a licensing agreement with that platform allowing them to sublicense your photos to their clients.

Suppose you took a photo of a model and licensed it as a stock photo. You then found out that the model posted it on Instagram without any license from the online platform or permission from you. This could be a copyright infringement, even though she is the subject of the photo.

If Someone Uses Your Photos Without Permission, Enforce Your Rights

Photographers should be mindful that even holding valid copyrights, it is easy to lose track of where their pictures wind up.
Being diligent about copyright infringement is one of the best ways to maintain your work’s integrity and value.

If you suspect someone is committing copyright infringement, you can send a demand letter asking the person to take the pictures down. You can also submit a DMCA request to the Online Service Provider.

To protect your rights and collect damages for the violation, you should contact experienced copyright infringement lawyers. At Sanders Law Group, we can ascertain the financial damages you have suffered, and help you determine a course of action that can ensure you collect the compensation allowed under copyright law.

Call Our Copyright Lawyers to Pursue Damages for Copyright Infringement

Our lawyers at Sanders Law Group have extensive experience representing photographers in copyright infringement cases against celebrities, models, and athletes who post pictures on social media without permission.

We are dedicated to ensuring that all creative artists understand the legal protection copyright provides, and they enforce their rights to collect damages when someone violates their rights.

Call Sanders Law Group today at 888-348-3090 for a free evaluation of your copyright infringement claim.


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