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NBA Star LeBron James is Facing a $150,000 Copyright Infringement Lawsuit After Posting a Photo of Himself on Facebook and Instagram


Can you commit copyright infringement by posting a photograph of yourself in social media? The answer is “yes, it is possible”—at least in certain circumstances. According to a report from Sports Illustrated, basketball star LeBron James is currently facing a $150,000 copyright infringement lawsuit after he posted a cropped photograph of himself on his Facebook page.

The Photograph is a From a December 2019 Game in Miami 

For four seasons, LeBron James played for the Miami Heat. Now a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, he returned to South Florida for a game in December of 2019. Early in the third quarter of that game, James threw down a spectacular dunk over a Miami defender. The moment was captured by photographer Steve Mitchell. Apparently the NBA star approved of the shot, as he posted cropped versions on his personal Facebook page and Instagram page.

Copyright Infringement Complaint: Reproduction Without Consent   

In March, legal counsel for the photographer filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against LeBron James in a New York federal court. According to the complaint, Mr. Mitchell (the photographer) alleges that James reproduced his original work without seeking consent or offering just compensation. In the copyright lawsuit, Mr. Mitchell is seeking up to $150,000 in damages for each instance of infringement.

Can an Athlete Commit Copyright Infringement By Posting a Picture of Themselves? 

For those unfamiliar with United States copyright law, this type of case can raise eyebrows and questions. While it may initially seem counterintuitive, it is absolutely possible to infringe on another person’s copyright by reproducing their photograph—even if you are actually in the picture.

Copyright law protects creative works of original authorship. A photographer has the right to own and control the commercial use of their photographs. That another person may be the central focus of the photograph—as is clearly the case with this picture of the Lakers star player—is actually not a relevant consideration in a copyright infringement dispute. While it is not frequently an issue for non-celebrities, another person or company can own a copyright over an image that you are in.

It is worth noting that athletes, celebrities, and other people do retain a “right to publicity” over their own likeness. As such, LeBron James does have some considerable control over how images of him are used in a commercial setting. For example, the photographer who captured the image of James does not have the right to sell that picture to a shoe company for use in a commercial. Still, a player cannot necessarily reproduce a photograph without consent from the photographer.

Get Help From Our Miami Copyright Infringement Lawyers Today

At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Miami copyright litigation attorneys have deep experience handling complex copyright infringement cases. If you have questions or concerns about copyright infringement, we can get you reliable answers. For a confidential consultation with an experienced attorney, please call us today. We represent clients in Miami, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and throughout South Florida.




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