Photographers Shoot for Unconscionability Claim Against NFL, AP

On Friday, July 29, 2016, the NFL, the Associated Press (AP) and Getty Images requested Judge Sweet of the Southern District in New York to reconsider his decision to allow a suit brought by several photographers to proceed.

Seven sports photographers, Paul Spinelli, Scott Boehm, Paul Jasienski, George Newman Lowrance, David Stluka, David Drapkin, and Thomas E. Witte are suing the NFL, the AP and Getty Images for unlawful business practices. The suit, lodged in 2013, alleges that the NFL pressured companies like the AP and Getty Images to provide the association with “stock” royalty-free images. Apparently, these pictures were provided to the NFL by those agencies without the consent of the photographers, and the photographers allegedly retained exclusive ownership of the pictures. As a result, the photographers claim, the pictures were commercially used without receiving payment for them.

The photographers have had a rough time convincing the judge of the merits of their claim. Last year, Judge Sweet dismissed the copyright infringement and antitrust claims against all defendants. The photographers countered by submitting a second amended complaint, now claiming that the licensing agreements with the photographers were invalid because the contracts were allegedly signed under duress. Moreover, the photographers allege that the contracts are void because they are unconscionable. The judge dismissed the duress claim, reasoning that the photographers continued to work for the companies under the terms of the contract. However, the court did allow the unconscionability claim to proceed.

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