Anyone familiar with the University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide football team and tradition will know Daniel Moore. An artist of great expertise and talent, Moore (see full disclosure below) has specialized in photo-realistic depictions of great moments in the Tide football history for nearly 30 years. His paintings hang everywhere from the bedrooms of young Tide fans who dream of playing football for Alabama to the Bryant Museum on the University’s campus in Tuscaloosa. The museum has the same hold on Tide fans that the Vatican has on Catholics, and Moore is a highly popular and well-respected figure in Bama nation.
Moore and the University worked together amicably for years. The athletic department issued sideline passes to Moore so he could get at closer look at the field, take pictures and make sketches. In 1991, after he had executed a number of paintings and prints of UA football, Moore began paying a license fee to the University for his some of his artwork. Moore stopped doing that in 2000 and has been in negotiation with the University ever since.
The situation culminated last month with the University filed suit against Moore claiming he was engaged in trademark violations by using University of Alabama colors, logos and symbols in his artwork. Moore has counter-sued, saying the University is interfering with his business. Moore is also claiming the same status as a journalist in having a First Amendment right to record public moments and then sell those recordings (in this case, his paintings) commercially.
Moore is making that claim based on his reading of the decision of a Federal judge in a case several years ago in which golfer Tiger Woods sued artist Rick Rush for a painting that Rush did of Woods. Woods said Rush’s work constituted trademark and copyright violations because it used Woods image without his permission.
Rush and his attorneys made the argument that what he was doing was no different than what a photojournalist would do in covering a sports event. A photojournalist working for a newspaper would go to a game, take pictures, put those pictures in the newspaper, and then sell those newspapers. Rush said that as an artist, he was doing exactly the same thing. He was watching an event, producing a painting and then selling prints of that painting. Woods’ case against Rush was eventually dismissed, though not solely on First Amendment grounds.
Now Moore is saying his case mirrors the Woods-Rush case. The University, he says, should have no control over what he produces as an artist, just as it has no control over what pictures a newspaper chooses to print.
The University certainly has an interest in protecting its trademarks, but as a strong advocate of the protection and expansion of First Amendment rights, I think trademark protection must be limited. In this case, Moore should be allowed to do what he needs to do as an artist – or a journalist, whichever he chooses to be.
The University will have to find a way to live with that.
Note: I understand that the University has taken a big public relations hit because of this suit. Word from Tuscaloosa is that some at the University are seeking some kind of an exit strategy from all of the bad publicity this has engendered.
Links. Here are some links for those wanting more information about the Moore-University of Alabama dispute:
Tuscaloosa News, Artist, UA face goal-line stand in clash over copyright laws, By Adam Jones, March 23, 2005
University of Alabama’s statement concerning its suit against Daniel Moore, March 23, 2005
Crimson White (Alabama’s student newspaper) UA sues famed sports artist Daniel Moore, Marlin Caddell, March 25, 2005
Daniel Moore’s web site, New Life Art
Full disclosure: I am connected to this situation in several ways.
• David Moore, Daniel Moore’s brother, is a newspaper editor in Alabama, and I have known him for many years.
• A couple of years ago, when Daniel Moore was still talking with the University about this situation, he got in touch with me, and he and I exchanged a couple of cordial emails. I gave him my thoughts about the case, and he has published those (with my permission) on his web site.
• I was involved in the Rick Rush/Tiger Woods case as part of Rush’s legal team. They asked me to evaluate the results of a mall intercept survey that the Woods lawyer wanted to present as evidence. I wrote a report about that evidence and was later deposed on the points I made in the report.
Jim Stovall (Posted April 13, 2005)
The picture above is a Daniel Moore painting, and it is used with his permission.
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