Howard Named in Heisman Photo Lawsuit
Desmond Howard’s Heisman pose following a punt return TD against Ohio State in 1991 is one of college football’s most well-known images. But has the photo been unlawfully copied for over 20 years?
That’s the claim being made by photographer Brian Masck, who is suing Howard, Sports Illustrated, Champions Press, Fathead, Amazon and Wal-Mart — among others — for copyright infringement in U.S. District Court in Detroit.
“This case is not about a photograph going viral,” the lawsuit states. “It is about getting credit. ... And yes, it is also about the money.”
Masck didn’t get a copyright for the photo until 2011, which he blames on bad legal advice in his lawsuit. According to intellectual property law expert E. Leonard Rubin, Masck’s copyright and lawsuit could very well be too little, too late.
“There is a defense to lawsuits called ‘laches,’ meaning that the owner of rights has slept on his/her rights too long and therefore lost them,” Rubin told USA Today. “Masck has known of at least some of the various uses about which he now complains for around 20 years and did nothing. He may have lost his rights.”
Masck was working as a freelance photographer when he snapped the iconic shot of Howard. When he and Howard met in 2011, Howard offered to buy the copyright of the photo but turned down Masck’s asking price of $200,000 to $300,000.
The fact that Masck is turning the picture that highlighted his photography career into a legal battle is unfortunate, to say the least. Desmond Howard profile