Aaron M. Sprecher, a freelance photographer who earns royalties from licensing images to news services like the Associated Press, is alleging that Watson published three of Sprecher’s photographs, taken in 2017, 2018 and 2020, without permission or compensation.
According to the lawsuit, Sprecher claims that he formally registered the photographs with the U.S. Copyright office and that Watson did not seek license to post them on his Instagram, which has 1.4 million followers. Sprecher also does not believe the AP granted the QB permission to use the pictures.
The first image, from Sept. 2017, shows Watson in sunglasses and a suit during a pregame walk to the Texans locker room. Another photo from May 2018 shows Watson in his uniform from the shoulders up. The third photo, from last January, features Watson signing autographs during a Pro Bowl practice.
According to the lawsuit, the former two images are still up on his account, while the Pro Bowl photo was removed late last month. The photos have combined to garner about 171,000 likes, per KTRK.
Furthermore, Sprecher is claiming that Watson has “previously posted additional photographs he took on social media without permission or a license. He said Watson has not removed the photographs after being advised that they are copyrighted.”
“Since it has happened many times, he finally felt he had no choice but to retain our firm to help him resolve this matter,” Sprecher's attorney, Kevin McCulloch said. “We think it is unfortunate that it came to this point, but we hope that the issue can get resolved quickly and amicably, as Mr. Sprecher certainly has no intention of making this simple matter any more contentious than necessary,”
The lawsuit reportedly does not include a specific monetary figure that Sprecher is seeking.
Watson recently signed a $177 million contract extension with Houston.
Neither Watson nor the Texans have addressed the lawsuit yet.