NFL Team Bullied Him,|Photographer Says | Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, November 29, 2023
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NFL Team Bullied Him,|Photographer Says

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CN) - A photographer says the Kansas City Chiefs used strong-arm tactics to use his life's work in renovating Arrowhead Stadium, without his permission and without paying him a dime for it - and demanded that he fork over his copyrights, too.

Hank Young says he has chronicled 40 years of Chiefs football with his camera, taking game and fan photos and pictures of Chiefs owners and executives.

"Recognizing the potential future value in his art, he retained the right to permit or refuse the use of any photographs for non-editorial purposes," he says in his federal complaint.

"The Chiefs agreed to and understood that Mr. Young was the author of these photographs and that he retained the right to control their use - an arrangement that was honored for over 40 years, paying him additional fees when, for example, they wanted to hang one of his photographs in an Arrowhead suite or use a photograph on a banner outside the stadium or hang a photograph in the concourse," the complaint states.

But Young says that changed when the Chiefs opened the newly renovated Arrowhead Stadium to the public. He says Chiefs officials gave him a take-it-or-leave-it offer: Either give up all his copyrights to his Chiefs photos or lose his privileges as an independent contractor.

"In essence, the Chiefs wanted to rewrite history and change the terms of a 40-year relationship between Mr. Young and the Chiefs," the complaint states. "Mr. Young was offered no compensation for this unprecedented demand."

Young said he was given a deadline of July 23, 2010 - the day when the new stadium was opened to the press - to accept or decline the offer.

"On July 23, 2010, the Chiefs unveiled New Arrowhead stadium," the complaint states. "Mr. Young attended a media tour of the renovated stadium and learned for the first time the extensive and unlicensed use of his photographs as a central design aesthetic of New Arrowhead. Mr. Young's photographs were incorporated into the manufacture of the new stadium, including in a commercialized Hall of Honor that was far from the hall of fame represented to Mr. Young, on entranceways, on spiral ramp walkways, on stadium concourses, on concession areas, and elsewhere.

"On the same date, Mr. Young learned that his photographs had been used to sell sponsorships and to enhance the commercial appeal of the stadium to sponsors.

"After learning about the extensive unlicensed use of his photographs, Mr. Young rejected the Chiefs' coercive attempt to force him into transferring the copyright to his photographs."

Young says the Chiefs started "pirating" his photos as early as 2008. He says Chiefs officials began asking to see his archives for a Chiefs Hall of Fame, which they described as a single room connected to the stadium.

Young said he complied and provided the photos, expecting that a fee would be negotiated before any use of the photos was contemplated, pursuant to his agreement with the Chiefs.

"The Chiefs knew, through their history with Mr. Young, that usage of his photographs in connection with revenue generating activities and paid sponsorships carried additional license fees," the complaint states. "Despite this fact, the Chiefs led Mr. Young to believe that his photographs were intended for a hall of fame, which was a single room of framed photographs in connection with editorial content, and that if they were going to use his photographs in a different manner, he would be paid a license fee. The Chiefs never informed Mr. Young that the Hall of Honor would be part of a main concourse, would be part of paid sponsorships, or that the Chiefs would receive revenue in conjunction with the Hall of Honor."

Young said he requested a meeting with Chiefs officials after seeing the unauthorized use of his work. He says he was told that he could not continue to pursue additional payment for the photos and continue being a game day photographer for the Chiefs, which ended his 40-year relationship with the football team.

Young seeks $150,000 for each copyright infringement and wants the team enjoined from continuing to show and sell his protected photos.

Defendants include the Kansas City Chiefs Football Club, Populus Inc., Workshop Design, Hy-Vee, Sprint Nextel and Time Warner.

The Chiefs, Populus and Workshop Design were all involved in the renovation of Arrowhead Stadium. Hy-Vee, Sprint and Time Warner were involved in sponsorship deals with the Chiefs involving Young's photos.

Young is represented by Patrick Stueve with Stueve Siegel Hanson.

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