Sports artist Daniel Moore won a major victory yesterday in his seven-year battle with the University of Alabama over his right to produce paintings of historic moments in Crimson Tide football.
The U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that Moore's paintings are protected by the First Amendment right to artistic expression and do not violate trademark law.
The outcome was good news for Moore--and for artists and journalists in general. Said Moore in a press release:
This long-awaited decision should come as good news to all who enjoy and respect our God-given and Constitutionally protected rights. Specifically, this is a significant victory for artists nationwide who have felt threatened by the aggressive and overreaching tactics of certain trademark owners, their agents and their lawyers who operate in the multi-billion dollar licensing industry. Furthermore, the ruling helps affirm the rights of news/media organizations and photographers--both journalistic and artistic--who have also kept a watchful and hopeful eye on this case.
The appellate court's decision is harmonious with a 1995 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, specifically stating that "paintings" and "prints" are forms of expression that are protected by the First Amendment, as well as sister circuits of the 11th Circuit who have ruled likewise.
Twenty-seven universities joined Alabama in arguing that UA's crimson-and-white color scheme constitutes a trademark that is violated by Moore's paintings. Moore responded with support from journalists and photographers stating that his work is protected by the First Amendment.
The Eleventh Circuit remanded the case to district court for possible further proceedings on secondary issues. But in general, the ruling was a clear victory for Moore. The artist seemed both elated and saddened by the latest turn in a long and winding legal battle that probably should have never happened. From the Moore press release:
The legal fight for the University was about the money it makes by licensing its trademarks. The University says that a portion of this money helps fund student scholarships, which is a good thing. It has been my good pleasure to help fund these scholarships through the art projects that I have voluntarily licensed. Ironically, this protracted litigation has now cost the University over $2 million. The sad irony is this money could otherwise have been used to fund an untold number of additional student scholarships. . . .
I have respected the University's trademark rights in both my unlicensed and my voluntarily licensed projects heretofore since 1979. It is my hope that the University will now respect my First Amendment rights, and those of all artists, going forward. With such an understanding, it is my belief and hope that we can work together under the same mutually beneficial relationship we enjoyed for over 20 years prior to the University raising the dispute of trademark rights vs. First Amendment rights. I now call upon my alma mater to join with me in a mutually respectful understanding going forward.