More bad news recently for the NFL: No, not the recent ruling by U.S. District Judge David Doty favoring the NFL Players Association in a TV dispute that has billions at stake. And no, this does not involve the collective bargaining agreement, expiring March 3rd at midnight, that could lead to the first league lockout since 1987.
This time, the NFL — typically a pit bull about protecting its own copyrights, is on the wrong end of a copyright infringement decision involving the Baltimore Ravens old logo.
Frederick Bouchat owns the copyright in a drawing he created for use as the Baltimore Ravens logo. In 1995 Bouchat sent the drawing to the team, requesting only that he be given a letter of recognition and an autographed helmet if it were used. For one reason or another, his drawing was used in the production of the “Flying B” logo during the team’s first three seasons from 1996-1998. While this logo has been replaced today by the current shield-raven’s head insignia, legal issues remain with the prior “Flying B” logo.
First, Bouchat sought an injunction prohibiting all current uses of the “Flying B” logo and requiring destruction of all items with the logo, including Ravens highlight films for the team’s first three seasons. The Ravens and the NFL contended that these uses were allowed under the fair use defense.
The Fourth Circuit analyzed the use of the logo in the highlight films according to Section 107’s four fair use factors, “easily” concluding that the use of the Flying B logo in the highlight films did not qualify as fair use.
Next, Bouchat sought an injunction against use of the logo in Ravens headquarters, specifically on a lobby wall dedicated to Ravens history. This time, the Fourth Circuit did find fair use, noting the lobby was a free of charge, “museum like setting,” and that the logo was used for its factual, not expressive, content.
Click here for the court’s full fair use analysis and source of this article.