Temecula FC Sued for Photo Usage Fee

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We at Protagonist Soccer enjoy covering the lower leagues across the country and following their stories, from creation to the present and what they look to accomplish in the future.  We also have strong opinions on topics across the landscape of soccer, both globally and locally. However, one of the things we stand against is the bullying of lower league clubs by individuals and groups.  This is evident as news has come out that a French news agency has filed a lawsuit against Temecula FC for its usage of an image from the agency’s website.

As everyone knows, five people perished in a helicopter crash outside of the King Power Stadium on the evening of October 27th, 2018.  One of those people was the much loved owner of Leicester City Football Club, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. Messages of condolences began pouring in from around the world and supporters of the club began laying flowers and leaving messages of support at the stadium.  The images spread across social media quickly, as people and clubs expressed their messages of support. Unfortunately, an image of the flower memorial is the center of this whole issue.

Like all those other clubs, Temecula FC wanted to post a message of support of Leicester City.  According to owner Brandon Jantz, he saw another club post the picture of the memorial and downloaded it.  Paired with the photo, he posted a quick statement from the club wishing Leicester the best. However, the issue here was there was no credit given to the agency.  Don’t get me wrong, we have all posted pictures in the past without giving credit and, as far as I’m aware, none of us have been threatened with legal action. He went on to tell me that Leicester City never contacted him or his club directly, but rather it was this agency that had the issue.  He went on to tell me that once they were contacted about the image, he explained their usage of the image and then took it down right away. Instead of leaving it as a miscommunication, the news agency chose to sue Temecula.

As per an email sent to Brandon from the “Copyright Claims” branch of Higbee and Associates (hired by the agency to handle this matter), the law firm claims that the use of the image was in violation of “The Copyright Act, Title 17 of the United States code.”  While the law firm acknowledges the Copyright Act, there are multiple chapters, so there is no clear suggestion of which chapter Temecula violated. I won’t claim to know anything about lawsuits or the legal world, but it seems like this law firm has essentially attempted to bully Temecula FC via email by stating, “If forced to go to court to resolve the matter, my client will ask for the maximum justifiable damages” while also stating later in the same email that Temecula can pay “$948 to settle this matter.”

At the end of the day, I understand news agencies make money off of licensing out pictures taken by their photographers.  But, in an instance like this, I feel they could have been a little more understanding and let it go. We will continue to provide updates as they come in.

- Shawn Laird

The agency was contacted by Protagonist Soccer for commentary, but so far no response has been given.