Photographer sues Nike over rights to Jordan 'Jumpman' logo
|The Nike 'Jumpman' logo in question.|
Copyright battles are nothing new in the world of freelance photography, but a lawsuit filed in federal court this week by Jacobus Rentmeester against Nike is particularly interesting. Rentmeester claims that Nike ripped off a photo he shot of Michael Jordan back in 1984 for Time Magazine, by reshooting a nearly identical image, after originally licensing his. The new image was then used as the basis for the Nike Jordan 'Jumpman' logo, a now billion dollar Nike brand.
Here's the full story: In 1984, Rentmeester was assigned to photograph a then college-age Michael Jordan for Time. The gig was a freelance assignment and Rentmeester retained the rights to the image. Later that year, Nike approached Rentmeester about using two of the 35mm transparencies from the shoot for marketing. Rentmeester was paid $150 for the limited use. A few months later, Nike gave Rentmeester an additional $500 to continue using the image.
In February 1985, Nike reshot the Jordan jump photo. Looking at the two side-by-side, it certainly looks like Nike's version could be based on the original by Rentmeester. He seemed to think so too, and sued Nike. In the end, he was awarded $15,000 and Nike was given a two year license to continue using their reshot Jordan image. That image of course became the basis for the modern Jordan Jumpman logo we've all come to know.
The original Rentmeester photo of Jordan shows the soon-to-be famous basketball star dunking not in his normal game-day style, but rather in a manner directed specifically by Rentmeester. The look Rentmeester wanted was similar to a ballet technique known as ‘grand jeté,' which is a long horizontal jump where the individual does a split mid-air.
Rentmeester registered his original image with the United States copyright office a little over a month ago, more than likely in preparation for this lawsuit. But is 30 years too long for him to make a legitimate claim? It's hard to say.
We reached out to attorney Bert P. Krages for an expert opinion. Read his statement below.
Bert P. Krages is an Oregon-based attorney specializing in intellectual property law, photographers' rights and environmental law. He has several books to his name including, 'Legal Handbook for Photographers: The Rights and Liabilities of Making Images.'
His Website also includes a free downloadable PDF that lists out the rights photographers should expect in the public domain.
"This is certainly an interesting case. Copyright cases can be deceptively complicated and this one has more complications than most. One of the elements of copyright infringement is that an ordinary observer would have to find the works to be substantially similar, or expressed another way, that the 'total concept and feel' of the works are substantially the same.
At one level, the Nike photo and logo are similar to the Rentmeester photo in that they depict a basketball player in midair with extended legs and holding the ball high over his head with his left arm. On the other hand, the Nike photo and the logo show Jordan with straight legs and arms whereas the Rentmeester photo shows some curvature in the legs and left arm. Also, in the Rentmeester photo the right arm is held near shoulder level instead of at waist level. So the major issue in this case could come down to whether the Nike photo and logo are seen substantially as copies or as independently-created variations of a jumping basketball player. Cases involving 'recreations' or 'borrowings' of existing works have gone both ways, depending on the nature of the subject, the degree of similarity, and how the copied portion is used.
Another issue is the length of time that has passed between the time the alleged infringements began and the filing of the lawsuit. According to the complaint, Rentmeester accused Nike of infringing the photograph in 1985 and was paid $15,000 for a two year license. The Nike photo and logo were used long after 1987 but no suit was filed until 2015. Although the length of time alone is not a defense to liability in this matter because Nike continues to use the works, it could be a grounds by which the court could limit damages significantly.
Finally, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (which is the relevant appellate court) issued an opinion last year in the Garcia v. Google case in which they held that an actress had a copyright interest in a film because her performance required creativity. Although this opinion has been widely criticized, and may be retracted by the Ninth Circuit before too long, it will be interesting to see if Michael Jordan is interjected into the case. According to the complaint, Jordan was basically striking a choreographed pose when Rentmeester took the photo. If Jordan claims a copyright interest in the work, it is possible that he could assert it in a manner that would benefit Nike."
We'll keep our eyes on this case and update you when we find out more. In the mean time, what do you think? Does Rentmeester deserve compensation? Or does Nike own the logo fair and square? Let us know in the comments below.
Nov 1, 2017
Oct 6, 2017
Sep 18, 2017
Sep 13, 2017
TIME Magazine has named the Sony a7R III one of its top 10 gadgets of 2017. It was the only camera that made the illustrious list this year, receiving high praise from TIME, who dubbed it "one of the best mirrorless cameras ever made."
Thanks to Google Assistant integration, the Pixel 2's AI-powered 'Google Lens' camera feature will soon be easier and quicker to use.
Photographer Jenna Martin and her model friend Rachelle Kathleen set themselves a challenge: could they create beautiful portraits in an 'ugly' location? So they went to a local Lowe's hardware store and gave it a go!
The LG V30 differentiates itself from the competition with an expansive video feature set and a secondary wide angle camera, making it something of a Swiss Army knife for content creators.
We're counting down our top 10 most popular sample galleries of 2017. Holding down the top position is none other than the Nikon D850 – by a landslide.
It's been twenty years since Jeff Keller founded the Digital Camera Resource Page, one of the first websites dedicated to digital photography. Jeff, who has been at DPReview for nearly five years, looks back at the rise and fall of consumer digital cameras and his website.
We're counting down our top 10 most popular sample galleries of 2017. At #2 we have another staff favorite – the Sony Alpha a9.
Rotolight has released the Anova Pro 2 circular LED for stills and video, boasting a 70% increase in brightness and what the company describes as "unrivaled battery performance."
Designer Vinicius Araújo has imagined what he believes the perfect Adobe software keyboard might look like. From customizable touch pads, to a scroll wheel, to a little display that shows the tool in use, his design is pretty compelling.
Peak Design has teamed up with Leica to release a limited-edition backpack made special for fans of the Red Dot.
A portrait of an android woman has beaten over 5,700 pictures of humans to take third place in this year’s prestigious Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize. The judges were not told the subject was an 'android' until after the winning images were chosen.
Hauling around C-Stands just got a whole lot less annoying thanks to these new Matthews shoulder and roller bags, which can hold two or three C-stand (respectively) plus accessories.
Neal Preston has shot timeless photos of everyone from Led Zeppelin, to Whitney Houston, to Michael Jackson. In this interview, he offers insights into his craft to up-and-comer Elijah Dominique.
Future prosumer Canon DSLRs might feature light-up buttons, if this newly published patent is any indication of the camera company's plans.
Sony's a7R Mark III shoots 42.4MP files at 10fps and incorporates a robust video feature set, large battery, refined ergonomics and more. It certainly looks impressive, but what is it like to use, and how does it stack up against the rest of the market? Find out in our full review.
We're counting down our top 10 most popular sample galleries of 2017 – the Fujifilm X100F takes the bronze and the #3 spot.
There's never been a better time to shop for a new camera, but the number of options available can be overwhelming. In this series of buying guides we've provided customized recommendations for several use cases, from shooting landscapes to buying a first camera for a student photographer.
Shopping for a camera with a set budget? No problem! We've rounded up our favorite cameras, broken them into price brackets and picked the best of the bunch.
Looking for a lightweight compact camera that's easy to bring with you anywhere? Or maybe you're smartphone-shopping and want the one that takes the best picture. And what if you want to shoot from above? In these buyers guides we have recommendations for the best compact cameras, smartphones and drones.
Despite reports to the contrary, analysis of DPReview images by our friend Jim Kasson confirms a disappointing fact: Sony a7R III is still a Star Eater. But there may be some improvements.
As the saying goes: A photo is worth a thousand words. And if you're sending that photo through Facebook Messenger, your thousand words now look twice as nice after today's update to 4K resolution.
Get to know the new Leica CL in short order by giving our 90 second 'First look' video a watch.
Leica has just released the CL, the forth in its series of APS-C L-mount cameras. Despite sharing a name with a camera released in the mid-70s, the new CL is a thoroughly modern ILC, with a 24MP sensor and built-in electronic viewfinder.
The Leica CL is a 24MP rangefinder-style mirrorless camera, which sits alongside the TL2 in the company's APS-C lineup. We've been using one for a few days – check out our gallery of images.
While it shares a name with one of Leica's most popular and affordable cameras of the 1970s, the new CL is separated from its namesake by more than just years. We've been using one for a few days - click through for a detailed first-impressions report.
We're counting down our top 10 most popular sample galleries of 2017, and the #4 ranking goes to the Leica M10.
Sigma is discounting 13 different high-performance 'Art' series lenses from today until November 30th. The company is calling it an 'unprecedented' sale.
See DJI's 'AeroScope' drone-tracking technology in action. This is the system that DJI says can help law enforcement and airport (among others) track and identify rogue drones.
iPhone X owners can already accessorize their new phone with high-quality smartphone photography lenses courtesy of Moment's new lineup.
Considering buying Sigma's exciting new 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary lens for crop-sensor E-Mount and M43? Check out these official full-res samples first!