Photographer Sues Gannett for $34 Million For Copyright Infringement

A photographer is suing Gannett Media for as much as $34 million in damages after hundreds of its news publications allegedly used her image without permission.

Photographer Stephanie Campbell filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against major media company Gannett and more than 220 Gannett news outlets on Friday, reports Rochester Beacon.

In the lawsuit, Campbell alleges that hundreds of Gannett’s news titles published her photo of former NFL coach Katie Sowers without seeking the photographer’s permission.

Sowers’s position as San Francisco 49ers offensive assistant was widely publicized when she became the first female and openly gay coach in a Super Bowl.

According to court documents, Campbell “was afforded unparalleled access to photograph Sowers at the moment she learned about her groundbreaking hire [and was] able to capture high quality, close-up photographs of Sowers’ reaction to the news and subsequent action shots of Sowers coaching.”

Campbell registered the photographs of Sowers with the U.S. Patent and Trademarks office.

However, Campbell claims Gannett obtained the image of Sowers through a screenshot rather than seeking the photographer’s permission to reproduce the picture.

Gannett then allegedly distributed the screenshot in over 220 of its news publications, including The Detroit Free Press and The Cincinnati Enquirer.

The media company credited Campbell in the image, writing in the caption that it published the photograph “courtesy of Stephanie Campbell.”

In the court documents, the photographer says that the inclusion of her name alongside the unauthorized image constitutes an infringement in itself.

According to the Rochester Beacon, Campbell is seeking damages of up to $150,000 for each alleged infringement, a sum that, if each supposedly infringing publication used the Sowers photo only once, could see the photographer winning $34 million.

The lawsuit also says that Campbell could alternatively agree to settle for profits Gannett made from use of the Sowers photo.

In 2019, Campbell sued The New York Times for copyright infringement over the same image of Sowers. The photographer reportedly agreed to settle the case four months after filing the lawsuit although the terms of the settlement were not stated.

Gannett is the largest U.S. newspaper publisher as measured by total daily circulation. It owns the national newspaper USA Today — although this publication is not named in Campbell’s suit.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.