AP Photographers Moving Closer to the End Zone as a Deal in Their Copyright Battle is Close

The National Football League (NFL) appears to be close to finalizing a settlement with a number of Associated Press (AP) photographers regarding an ongoing dispute stemming from royalty payments. Counsel notified U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty on June 3, 2019 that the parties are in the process of finalizing a confidential settlement agreement. According to the letter, a motion to dismiss is expected within the next 45 days.

The suit, brought by Paul Spinelli and six other photographers, alleged that the NFL exploited thousands of their photographs without a license and without compensation for images they took while working for the AP. The photographers sought damages under the Copyright Act, which included statutory damages and damages incurred as a result of lost licensing revenue due to the NFL’s infringement. They also sought damages against the AP based on claims of breach of contract and violation of fiduciary duties.

The lawsuit alleged that the photographers had an agreement with the AP to keep the copyright of images they took, while the AP could license them out for use. These types of agreements are commonly known as contributor agreements.

The photographers initially sued the AP, the NFL, and others in 2013. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2016 for failure to state a claim, but that decision was reversed in 2018 by the Second Circuit.  The AP, the NFL, and Replay Photos LLC argued the decision conflicted with precedent, but ultimately the Second Circuit rejected this argument.

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