Detriot lions charged to court over Barry sanders statue

The Detroit Lions make a motion to dismiss the lawsuit against the Barry Sanders statue.

DETROIT, Michigan — The Detroit Lions have moved to have a lawsuit filed against them by a veteran sports photographer dismissed in federal court.

Photographer Allen Kee filed a lawsuit against the Detroit Lions in January, alleging the team stole ideas for the Barry Sanders statue outside Ford Field from a 1995 shot he took.

Along with other names in the lawsuit, Kee, who filed it in the Southern District of New York U.S. District Court, also listed Getty Images, NFL Properties, NFL Enterprises, Fanatics, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and McFarlane Toys. Kee claims that the other parties violated his work’s copyright directly, indirectly, or through vicarious infringement.

Kee asserted through his lawyers, Kevin P. McCulloch and Nate A. Kleinman, that he was the only creator and owner of the picture.

The lawsuit says that the monument, which was installed outside of Ford Field in September 2023, was created based on a picture that Kee took of Sanders at a Lions game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 3, 1995.

According to the lawsuit, Kee did not snap the picture as part of a “work for hire” agreement or contract; rather, he was operating as a freelance photographer at the time and was not employed by any company or organization.

The plaintiff filed the action in New York, but the Lions submitted a motion on Friday, May 10, claiming that the plaintiff lacked jurisdiction for his complaint. The motion argues that Kee resides in both Florida and Connecticut, while the Lions are based in Michigan and the statue was made in Illinois.

The statement says that in addition to the plaintiff lacking jurisdiction, the court also lacks jurisdiction over the Lions because they have no economic ties to New York.

Attorney Daniel J. Aaron for the Detroit Lions filed a motion stating, “The claims should be dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12.”

Additionally, the NFL filed a move to dismiss on Friday, referring to the photographer’s allegations as “meritless.”

Although Kee’s lawyers contend that the photographer never gave an exclusive license to any individual or organization, the complaint acknowledges that the photographer submitted the image to NFL Photos, a licensing company that shut down in 2004.

The statement claims that because the Lions have no financial ties to New York, the court does not have jurisdiction over them in addition to the plaintiff.

In a motion filed, Detroit Lions attorney Daniel J. Aaron said, “The claims should be dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12.”

A request to dismiss was also filed by the NFL on Friday, citing the photographer’s claims as “meritless.”

The complaint notes that the photographer submitted the photo to NFL Photos, a licensing company that closed its doors in 2004. Kee’s attorneys argue that the photographer never granted an exclusive license to any person or entity.

The NFL promised to restore any original slides that freelance photographers, like Kee, submitted for licensing to their owners when NFL Photos terminated business in 2004. According to Kee, the Sanders photo on his initial slide was taken to an NFL-owned storage facility in California and was never returned.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants “jointly acted willingly, purposefully and/or with reckless disregard for (Kee’s) copyrights” by neglecting to obtain the rights and permission required to copy, publish, distribute and otherwise use and/or exploit” Kee’s photo.

The NFL, represented by Jordan Feirman, responded by stating that the plaintiff had signed a 2004 agreement specifically allowing the NFL to give any of Kee’s physical slides in their control to WireImage, a licensing agency.

Feirman stated that the plaintiff “apparently created new claims without investigating in an attempt to plead around his 2004 authorization.”

The NFL parties “agreed to either return or physically transfer” the slides to WireImage, according to Feirman’s argument.

“The NFL Parties ‘improperly transferred (the photo) to WireImage,'” according to a completely contradictory assertion paired with a breach of contract claim that noticeably fails to identify the actual contract at issue, Feirman wrote. It is undeniable that the statute of limitations has passed fourteen years ago, even in the event that the contract was proved and the photos were identified.

In addition to a permanent injunction barring the defendants from duplicating, exhibiting, distributing, advertising, promoting, and/or profiting from his copyrighted work, Kee is requesting an undisclosed sum of relief in the action.

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