When you’re the biggest name and most recognisable face in one of the world’s biggest sports, you’re bound to have your photo taken hundreds of times a night.
But whether that gives you the right to use those photos on your personal social media is the point of contention in an increasingly bitter legal battle between NBA superstar LeBron James and a courtside photographer.
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An image of James dunking on the Miami Heat’s Meyers Leonard on December 13 last year is at the centre of the dispute.
It was a side-on dunk and James reportedly captioned the image “What. A.Time. To. Be. Alive and I’m LIVING with Pure Joy! Thank you” followed by a basketball emoji.
Post-match, James posted it on Instagram and Facebook without photographer Steve Mitchell’s consent.
Did LeBron James commit copyright infringement by posting on his Facebook page a professional photographer's photo of him dunking? That question is at issue in a new federal lawsuit against James. Details in a @SInow and @TheCrossover legal story: https://t.co/SwwgRfHNGe pic.twitter.com/0STpTDLbKO
It’s similar to the lawsuit facing Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson after he posted an image on Instagram without permission.
TMZ Sport reported in March that Mitchell filed a claim in court asking for any money made off the post or $150,000 for each time James used the image.
But according to The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan, James has countersued and is seeking $1 million and lawyer fees from Mitchell.
James has argued that the photographer illegally used the images on his website to promote his photo service.
“Only after our client was sued for copyright infringement for alleged use of a single photo – which we have consistently tried to settle for a reasonable amount – did we file this countersuit upon learning the photographer was making unlawful use of photographs of our client on his website to advertise and promote his photography services business,” a statement attributed to James’ counsel Howard Shire read via The Athletic.
“We continue to try to resolve this matter amicably. We have no interest whatsoever in ultimately obtaining any amounts from the plaintiff.”
LeBron James has been up close with photographers his entire career.Source:Getty Images
Copyright lawyer Josh Gerben admitted James may have a point as the photographer is using a picture of the NBA superstar to promote his services.
After a hearing on Monday, Judge George Wu called for both parties to get together and settle the case between themselves.
A ruling is expected in the next week.
But LeBron has more pressing matters at hand.
After receiving his NBA title ring but copping a loss against the LA Clippers on opening night, James should be in action for the Lakers against the Mavericks on Boxing Day (AEDT).
He rolled his ankle against the Clippers but has said he’d be all right to play Dallas in the Christmas Day clash.
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