August 7th, 2013

Photog Who Shot Image for Nike’s “Bo Knows” Ad Campaign Unleashes Lawsuits on Infringers

Richard Noble's 1987 portrait of baseball and football star Bo Jackson. ©Richard Noble

Richard Noble’s 1987 portrait of baseball and football star Bo Jackson. ©Richard Noble

Photographer Richard Noble has reached a tentative settlement with Nike over a copyright infringement claim, filed a second infringement claim against various t-shirt vendors, and is preparing to file new claims against other infringers in the coming weeks, according to his attorney, Edward Greenberg.

All of the claims allege unauthorized use of an iconic image of athlete Bo Jackson, which Noble shot in 1987. The photograph became the poster image for a legendary ad campaign called “Bo Knows” that helped turn Nike into the leading athletic footwear brand.

“Mr. Noble has not licensed this image to anybody for any purpose in some 20 years,” says Greenberg.

Noble sued Nike in June, and was seeking unspecified damages for multiple unauthorized uses of the Bo Jackson image. Nike’s alleged infringement dated back to 2007.

Greenberg declined to discuss the terms of the settlement agreement with Nike, which is still pending, or explain why Noble waited until June 2013 to sue Nike for infringements that took place as long as six years ago. But court papers suggest Noble wasn’t aware of them until more recent infringements led him to suspect past infringement, and search for them.

According to the claim he filed against Nike, Noble was contacted by ESPN and Nike last fall for permission to use the image of Bo Jackson for various projects. ESPN wanted to use it in a documentary film about Bo Jackson, while Nike wanted it for unspecified marketing campaigns, and the company told Noble it wanted to buy “all rights” to the image.

Noble declined both requests, and asked Nike for more details about how they wanted to use the image, so he could propose a fee for a limited license. Nike told Noble in late 2012 they were eager to start using the image, but Noble told the company in mid January 2013 to “hold off” pending a license agreement to be determined, according to the lawsuit. He also told Nike explicitly that he would not agree to a “buy out” of the image.

Then, on January 23, 2013, Noble discovered that Nike had already started using the image. According to Noble’s lawsuit, the company admitted it had distributed the photo on Facebook and Twitter, and had provided it to ESPN for use in the network’s promotion of the documentary film about Bo Jackson.

The lawsuit said that Noble then discovered that a number of other companies had used the image in promotions of Nike products. Those other companies include Steiner Sport Memorabilia, Major League Baseball, Sneaker Bar Detroit and Nice Kicks. Noble alleged in his lawsuit that Nike provided the image to those companies, and authorized them to use it without Noble’s permission.

In addition, Noble discovered that Nike had used the image in various ads and promotions for its products in 2007, 2009 and 2012 without his permission.

Noble says in his claim that he has asked Nike for a full accounting of its past uses of the image, and uses by other companies that were facilitated by Nike (i.e., for which Nike provided the picture and told those third parties it was OK for them to use the image).

He has also told Bo Jackson himself to stop using the photo as an autograph handout because he has not authorized Jackson to do that, according to the lawsuit.

Noble is planning to file copyright infringement claims against other companies besides Nike who have used his Bo Jackson image without permission, Greenberg told PDN.

So far, only one other claim has been filed. That claim, against Blank Shirts Inc and a number of other t-shirt sellers. According to the claim, Noble discovered in June that the companies were using the Bo Jackson image on t-shirts for sale through various Web sites. Noble is seeking unspecified damages from the defendants in that case.

Greenberg says he will file a third lawsuit next week against other companies who have used Noble’s image of Bo Jackson without permission. Other lawsuits could follow that, he said.

March 12th, 2013

Photogs Dish Anonymously About Clients’ Rates Via New Tumblr Site

A new site on Tumblr set up by an anonymous editorial photographer seeks to provide a platform where photographers can share information about what clients in all fields, from editorial to advertising to non-profits, pay photographers.

Still in its infancy, the site, Who Pays Photographers, is based on a similar Tumblr, Who Pays Writers, which, you guessed it, lists fees paid to writers. According to the anonymous founder of Who Pays Photographers, the response has been a bit overwhelming, indicating a serious interest among photographers to talk about, and read about, the fees clients pay for photographic work.

Thus far the site has information about The New York Times, Getty Images, AP, AFP, The Wall Street Journal, ESPN and several other clients in the US and abroad.

We exchanged emails with the creator of Who Pays Photographers to find out a bit more about her/his goals for the site.

PDN: How long have you worked as a photographer and in what field?

Who Pays Photographers: I’m an editorial photographer with 6 years experience, about half of that time as a staffer at a magazine, and more recently, as a freelancer.

PDN: What inspired you to start the site? Was it just a natural reaction to seeing Manjula Martin’s Who Pays Writers, or was there more to it?

WPP: The site was a simple reaction to Who Pays Writers, a site that was linked to a number of times during the recent Nate Thayer kerfuffle with the Atlantic. It seemed obvious that the photo industry could really benefit from having such a resource and I found it surprising that nothing of the sort existed. (more…)

March 21st, 2012

March Madness: David Leventi’s College Basketball Cathedrals

You don’t have to be caught up in the NCAA college basketball championship to appreciate David Leventi’s images of basketball arenas. Leventi, a Brooklyn-based photographer, was assigned to shoot some of the country’s oldest college basketball courts last fall for ESPN the Magazine. His images, all shot in available light using a 4×5 camera, capture the architectural grandeur of basketball courts built before 1940, including those at Butler, Fordham, University of Pennsylvania and Yale.

Top: Butler's basketball arena. Above: University of Pennsylvania. All photos © David Leventi

“The idea was to show them as cathedrals of basketball,” he explains. He had two to three hours in each of the spaces to wait until the light was just right, and also to figure out the best place to position his camera in order to get a dramatic photo. “The challenge is finding the one emblematic shot that says it all compositionally as well as on an emotional level.”

Leventi has recently been getting assignments from The New York Times Magazine, Esquire and other clients to shoot grand interiors, including the refurbished TWA terminal in New York’s JFK airport, thanks to his series of images of great opera houses in Europe, which he exhibited last year in Toronto.

Leventi, who also shoots landscapes and less splendid interiors, says his very personal project on opera houses was inspired as much by his grandfather, Anton Gutman, as by his interest in architecture.  Gutman’s singing career was thwarted, Leventi explains. “He was a cantor who was interned in a Soviet prisoner-of-war camp from 1942-1948. The Danish operatic tenor Helge Rosvaenge, also a prisoner, heard my grandfather sing an aria from Tosca and gave him lessons. I grew up listening to him sing in our living room,” says Leventi, who ended up photographing the great stages on which his grandfather never got to sing.

More of Leventi’s architectural work can be found on his blog, davidleventi.wordpress.com.