Several prominent poker photographers whose work was allegedly misappropriated and adopted for unauthorized use by PokerPaint, a company that produces stylized and graphically-enhanced art, have sent a cease-and-desist notice to the company and its owner, Brett Butz. Five notable poker photographers sent the cease-and-desist to Butz, a Virginia resident, on Monday.
The five photographers — Eric Harkins, Drew Amato, Hayley Hochstedter, Neil Stoddart, and Danny Maxwell — are represented in the letter drafted by attorney Andrea Weiss. The notice states that the photographers have “an interest in your converting their photographs on your website.
“I understand that you do not wish to breach their copyrights, but your continuing use of their photos constitutes such a breach,” the notice continues. “In order that you discontinue this behavior, if you do not cease and desist use of these photos immediately or, alternatively, negotiate a licensing arrangement with each photographer, my clients will be forced to file a class action lawsuit against you. Since you have profited from this improper activity for some time, you could be subject to substantial damages.”
Butz retains counsel, ends direct contact with photographers
Butz has received the notice and retained his own counsel in the matter. He will be represented by Washington, D.C.-based attorney James C. Liddell. Liddell, in a response to the possible litigants, noted that a class-action suit would probably be excessive and unprofitable given PokerPaint’s nature as a startup effort. The response indicates that PokerPaint has already incurred significant startup expenses and that as a business entity, currently operates at a loss.
Liddell’s response also stressed that Butz will continue to work in good faith to reach a mutually agreeable resolution of the copyright issues. The letter did not, however, contain any direct admission of guilt regarding the alleged copyright violations.
A sixth notable poker photographer, Joe Giron, is handling his interests regarding the PokerPaint situation separate from the above group. Counsel for other photographers and business entities whose graphically altered photos appear at PokerPaint may also have contacted Butz in recent days.
Early apology could have ended conflict
Several of the affected photographers noted that many of the offending images appear to have been removed from the PokerPaint website. However, they still bristle at the notion, as reiterated in Liddell’s response, that they should be the ones hunting through PokerPaint’s galleries searching for possibly offending images.
Some of the photogs, when contacted by Poker.org, insisted that had Butz acknowledged his misuse of the copyright early on, much of the latest legal mess could’ve been avoided. Drew Amato said, “I think if he just apologized from the gate said there was a misunderstanding, he wasn’t aware of the copyright laws and at that point took everything down and then contacted us individually, it would have been a much cleaner break.”
Amato was among those still hoping for a direct apology. “His claiming that he didn’t know the copyright laws and then telling all of us to contact him if we see our photos for him to take down,” Amato added, “it kind of rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.”