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20 April 2022CopyrightMuireann Bolger

Amazon faces lawsuit over Michael Jordan dunk photo

Amazon has been hit with a copyright infringement lawsuit alleging that the online retailer did not comply with Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notices concerning a photo of basketball player Michael Jordan.

The archive company and owner of the disputed photo, Goatpix, filed the complaint at the US District Court for the Central District of California on Tuesday, April 19.

The photograph at the heart of the dispute is an image of NBA star Michael Jordan, defying gravity, in mid-air, during the 1988 All Star NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

The crown jewel

Goatpix described the image as the ''crown jewel” of its collection and “perhaps one of the most singularly iconic sports images ever captured”.

It held that it had sent a DMCA takedown notice to Amazon in February that identified a set of infringing products available on its website. According to the filing, Amazon told Goatpix’s counsel it would not take down the products, even though the platform had complied with past notices.

The complaint outlined how Goatpix owns all rights and interest in a significant number of priceless photographs of NBA players, teams and events, and that the US Copyright Office issued a registration for the disputed photograph in June 2021.

Goatpix has aggressively enforced (and continues to enforce) its rights under copyright law, and has caused hundreds of infringing products to be removed from the internet, each of which were infringing on the Goatpix copyrighted work, the complaint noted.

Pernicious theft

But it argued that the theft of copyrighted material on the internet had reached epidemic proportions and that this theft is even more pernicious in the sports memorabilia sector, due to the giant margins available by selling stolen products.

Goatpix accused Amazon of selling physical memorabilia, online and through their vast network of resellers, including, but not limited to

It further complained that Amazon had ridden on and exploited Goatpix’s coattails and hard-earned credibility for their own pecuniary gain.

“In every relevant action they took, defendants acted with a consciousness of guilt. Defendants' conduct has caused, and continues to cause, severe and irreparable harm to plaintiff,” the complaint said.

It went on to insist that Goatpix had been deprived of revenue and market share for this iconic image, that the market for future sales of this image has been irreparably diluted, and that Amazon had enriched its business on the back of Goatpix’s  IP.

“Goatpix has suffered incalculable harm, and in spite of approaching defendants in good faith, has been rebuffed at every turn by defendants,” it stated.

Amazon’s “callous disregard” for the sanctity of copyright law had left Goatpix no choice but to bring this action, according to the filing.

The complaint also stated that while regularly claims, and is afforded, “safe harbour” protection from copyright violation actions for products appearing on their platform, that this protection should only  apply if the company “acts expeditiously to remove, or disable access to, the material.”

Goatpix is seeking statutory damages under Section 504(c)(2) of the Copyright Act in the sum of up to $150,000 per infringement.

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