HOUSTON – Nine days after Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson signed a four-year, $156 million contract extension, a lawsuit filed in federal court accused him of copyright infringement.
The next day, Tuesday, the Texans denied credentials to the photographer who filed the lawsuit, his attorneys said.
Houstonian and freelance sports photographer Aaron Sprecher took the photos in question. Watson posted them on his Instagram account without permission and without credit, and did not take down the photos when asked, the lawsuit alleged.
“I think most people think, ‘Wait a second, that’s DeShaun’s picture, why would anyone be able to sue him for anything?’” said KPRC 2 legal analyst Brian Wice. “What the federal copyright law says it may be DeShaun’s picture, but it’s the photographer’s intellectual property, and that’s the basis of this federal lawsuit.”
Three of the photos in question were taken in 2017, 2018, and 2020. The first two remain on Watson’s Instagram page, which has 1.4 million followers.
“It’s not the NFL, it’s an Instagram account that Deshaun is responsible for,” Wice said. “At the end of the day, it’s on Deshaun to take those pictures down.”
“What a lame,” fellow Texans player Justin Reid wrote on Twitter, tweeting a link to the lawsuit.
“Imagine getting sued for using a photo of yourself,” Texas Dylan Cole responded.
Imagine getting sued for using a photo of yourself...— Dylan Cole (@dylancole31) September 15, 2020
“[Sprecher] and his licensing agency, AP, are always happy to license images to NFL players for personal uses such as this,” Sprecker’s attorneys said in a statement. “But as a freelancer, he can’t allow players to just take photos without payment or even giving him proper credit, since this is how he earns his living. And no one can seriously dispute this.”
“Mr. Sprecher just learned that he has been denied credentials to future Texans games,” the statement continued. “[W]e are very concerned that this may be an effort at retaliation.”
“[W]e certainly hope that the Texans do not bar Mr. Sprecher from shooting games and deprive him of his livelihood merely for standing up for his legitimate and indisputable copyrights in these photos.”