After nearly a year of litigation, LeBron James is settling a copyright infringement lawsuit that accused him of misusing a photo on social media.
According to The Athletic, the settlement between James and photographer Stephen Mitchell was revealed in a court filing on Wednesday, but the terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
“The parties have reached a settlement in principle that resolves all claims in this action,” the two sides wrote in the joint filing, via The Athletic. “The parties thus jointly request twenty-one (21) days to memorialize and execute the agreement in writing, after which time the parties intend to file a stipulation of dismissal with prejudice.”
James sued over misuse of photo
This saga began in early 2020 after James posted a photo of himself dunking a basketball on Facebook. Mitchell had taken the photo of James during a Lakers game, but James didn’t get Mitchell’s permission to post it and didn’t attribute the photo to Mitchell. By March, Mitchell had sued James over the post.
James took the photo down, but according to The Athletic, he argued in court documents that he was allowed to use the photo without permission if he wasn’t trying to make any money from it. But even though James wasn’t trying to make money with that Facebook post, there are other posts in his feed where he is. The Athletic reported that the mixture of entertainment and commerce was the snag with James’ argument.
James countersued Mitchell in August, claiming that Mitchell was trying to promote his own photo agency by illegally using photos of James on his website. James’ countersuit was for $1 million. Mitchell had been seeking at least $150,000 in his original lawsuit.
James settles after he was ordered to appear
According to The Athletic, the settlement followed an incident last week between James’ attorney, Howard Shire, and Judge Jean Rosenbluth. Shire told Rosenbluth during a hearing that since attending a settlement conference would be an “imposition” on James’ time, Shire had been given the power to settle the suit without James’ actually being there. Rosenbluth didn’t appreciate being told that a settlement conference was an imposition on anyone’s time — especially since James had countersued — and told Shire that James would have to be there.
“Well, I object to your statement, that is an imposition on his time,” she said. “He brought these … counterclaims and he has to be prepared to litigate them. This is a settlement conference, a common feature of litigation. So, it’s hard for me to accept it would be perhaps one thing if he were a defendant, because I can understand that celebrities sometimes get people suing them. And I’m not saying that’s what’s going on here. But they sometimes get people suing them to harass them or to get to be in the same Zoom video call with them or whatever. But Mr. James has brought counterclaims, and he has an obligation to litigate those claims.”
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