Photo company sues Kentucky Sports Radio and Matt Jones, alleging copyright violations

jwarren@herald-leader.comFebruary 4, 2014 

A Virginia-based photography company has sued Kentucky Sports Radio and commentator Matt Jones in federal court, saying the photography company's photos were used in violation of federal copyright law.

The 12-page lawsuit was filed Jan. 31 by Andrew Shurtleff Photography LLC, a Virginia company run by freelance photographer Andrew Shurtleff.

Named as defendants are Kentucky Sports Radio, Jones and Andrew Jefferson, both of whom are listed as co-owners of KSR.

Jones referred comments to his attorney, Griffin Sumner of Louisville. However, he later posted a statement on KSR's website saying he is aware of the lawsuit.

"We disagree with the allegations in the complaint for a variety of reasons and will defend them accordingly," the statement said.

"KSR uses photos on its site based on a variety of sources, including third-party agreements," the statement said. "We hope to move past this quickly and focus on our UK sports coverage in the most ridiculous manner possible."

Sumner said she had not yet seen all of the lawsuit but that Kentucky Sports Radio "takes the complaint very seriously and respects copyright owners' rights."

"KSR's normal practice is to use third-party photos only when it has an agreement to do so," she said. "Kentucky Sports Radio will be reviewing the allegations and responding in due course."

Shurtleff's attorney, Annie O'Connell of Louisville, declined to comment, saying the lawsuit speaks for itself.

At issue in the suit are several photographs that Shurtleff said he took in 2009 and 2010 at the National Basketball Players Association Top 100 Camp and the 2011 Elite Youth Basketball League camp.

Shurtleff's lawsuit states that the ESPN Internet Group hired him to photograph the basketball camps. He also said he granted ESPN non-exclusive licenses to display the images.

Shurtleff said he transferred copyrights on the photographs to his own company in August 2012. His company now holds proprietary rights to the pictures, the lawsuit says.

Shurtleff said he discovered in February 2011 that the defendants had reproduced and were displaying seven of the photographs on Kentuckysportsradio.com. None of the displays attributed the pictures to Shurtleff, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says that Shurtleff, acting through his attorney, wrote to Jefferson and KSR on May 12, 2011, notifying them that they weren't authorized to use the photos and "demanding that they cease any further use."

According to the lawsuit, Jones replied to the letter, but Shurtleff's claims were not resolved. The defendants also didn't remove the photos from their website, the suit claims.

According to the lawsuit, Andrew Shurtleff Photography learned in May 2012 that the defendants were displaying 11 more of its photographs taken at the basketball camps. Only two of the 11 pictures were attributed to Shurtleff, the suit said.

Shurtleff, through his attorney, emailed Jones on June 6, 2012, notifying him and Kentucky Sports Radio of the allegedly unauthorized reproduction and display of the 11 photos, the suit says. The email message also stated that the first seven pictures continued to be shown without authorization, according to the suit.

The lawsuit says Jones responded to the email, but Shurtleff's claims again were not resolved. The disputed photos remained on the KSR website despite Shurtleff's demands that they be removed, the lawsuit says.

The suit asserts that the photographs are protected under federal copyright law. It also states that neither Shurtleff nor his company ever authorized the defendants to reproduce, display or distribute the pictures.

The defendants have never compensated Shurtleff or his company for using the pictures, according to the lawsuit.

It also alleges that the defendants "intentionally removed" Shurtleff's copyright notices from the photographs. Defendants also knew or had reasonable grounds to know that the removal would "induce, enable, facilitate or conceal" copyright infringement, the suit states.

Shurtleff Photography asks that the court issue an order finding that the plaintiffs violated the Federal Copyright Act.

It also asks the court for damages of as much as $150,000 for each alleged copyright infringement.

Jim Warren (859) 231-3255. Twitter: @hlpublicsafety.

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