Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sports Artist Comes Up a Winner In First Amendment Battle With University of Alabama

Daniel Moore

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.


David said...

It seems odd that the same university that has been so incensedd over what it claims as a trademark violation has its own trademark problem. The Nike gear, uniforms, helmits, shoes, windbreakers, etc. the university has purchased and dresses ts team and coaching staff in, all bear the dostictive Nike trademark. This violates Alabama state law that prohibits advertising on state prpoerty. The university cannot argue that the Nike gear nor Bryant/Denny Stadium on which their team plays are not state property.

Some 10 years or so ago some group had a rally on the front yard of the Alabama state capital. The had the local Coke distributor paint them a banner which they had strecthed across the capital columns. On each end of the banner were the Coke logo. The capital police had them take it down and cut off the logos, citing the state law.

legalschnauzer said...


You raise an interesting point, one that had never occurred to me. That UA would bring a lawsuit against Daniel Moore is one of the dumbest legal moves I've ever seen. Moore says in his press release that the university has spent $2 million on the case, and I hope they wind up having to pay Moore's attorney fees.

live sports said...

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