Shutdown Corner - NFL

NFL looking at possible copyright infringement by porn expo promoters

Looks like the NFL's attorneys are doing more than just getting kicked out of recent labor negotiating sessions for ramping up the drama; they're also taking a close look at the possible misuse of NFL trademarks at a recent pornography expo in Miami, as well as an ad for an upcoming convention in Chicago. The ad, which touts the virtues of the "Exxxotica Expo 2011," features several NFL players in uniform, which the league is looking into for possible copyright infringement.

In the ad, the on-field likenesses of several NFL players, including Chicago Bears safety Major Wright, Oakland Raiders receiver Jacoby Ford and Houston Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson, are seen as tacit endorsement of the event by the players. In addition, Illinois defensive lineman Corey Liuget, who was drafted in the first round this year by the San Diego Chargers, was named. However, the agent for another player who supposedly appeared at the Miami expo, Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry, denies that his client was there.

But to the lawyers, the players' participation is not the specific issue — what's drawing their ire is the fact that the people putting on the expo are showing players in their uniforms, with team logos clearly visible.  

"The NFL office works on behalf of the clubs to protect their intellectual property rights in matters such as this," league spokesman Brian McCarthy recently told Chicago television station WLS. "Our legal team is reviewing the ad. In general, companies not affiliated with the NFL or its clubs may not depict a player in his uniform."

"This is an improper use of team marks and the Chicago Bears are not associated with this ad," Bears spokesman Jim Christman added. "Many times, players themselves are unaware of the violations and the companies simply pull images and make ads not realizing they are in violation."

During the lockout, the league is not in specific control of player endorsements and may not direct them in disciplinary matters, but league copyright is another matter. And while Berry may be off the hook, those players actually endorsing, or appearing at, these conventions, can expect to get some interesting letters from the NFL once the NFL and NFLPA are back on the same page.

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