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Lakers star LeBron James launches $1 million countersuit vs. photographer

lebron james, lakers

As LeBron James begins his 2020-21 season on the basketball court with the Los Angeles Lakers, he’s simultaneously embroiled in a dispute of a different type.

According to The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan, James and his legal team have filed a seven-figure countersuit against a photographer who had sued James for copyright infringement.

In March, a copyright attorney, on behalf of Steven Mitchell, sued James and his associates (named as LRMR Ventures and Uninterrupted Digital Ventures), claiming that the Lakers star improperly used photos taken by Mitchell on social media. Mitchell sought up to $150,000 per infringement.

James then countersued Mitchell, asking for at least $1 million and attorney fees.

LeBron James removed the photos, but previously contested via court filings that he is entitled to post them as long as he isn’t commercially exploiting Mitchell’s work. He filed the countersuit in August, arguing that Mitchell illegally used the photos of James on his website.

According to legal experts cited in Kaplan’s report, the cases could go either way, as arguments over fair use can be tricky to navigate.

Furthermore, the rights to photographers’ use of player images are negotiated in collective bargaining agreements, allowing the use of images in publications, leading Mitchell to argue that James has no right to sue in the first place.

LeBron James is arguing that Mitchell was using his photos of the superstar to promote his agency.

Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson is currently involved in a similar legal dispute.

In one court filing, Mitchell argues that LeBron James’ sought-after figure of $1,000,000 in damages is not only excessive, but it threatens the work of all sports photographers.

After hearing both sides on Monday, Judge George Wu, who is presiding over the case, called on both sides to settle the dispute.