Poker photogs accuse PokerPaint of copyright infringement, image theft

Haley Hintze
Published by:
Posted on 09/25/2021

A poker-themed startup seeking to sell digitized images of famed players as NFT (non-fungible token) digitally-stamped collectibles has been publicly accused by several veteran poker photographers of misappropriating their copyrighted images without permission or compensation. PokerPaint, a Washington, D.C.-based company run by Fairfax, Virginia’s Brett Butz, is marketing artwork that consists of famous poker photos being processed through graphical filters to create a stylized effect. The art, however, remains easily recognizable as being derived from the photographers’ original work.

At least four well-known poker photographers have accused Butz and PokerPaint of stealing their work and repurposing it for profit. Eric Harkins, Drew Amato, Joe Giron, and Hayley Hochstetler all confirmed via social media the alleged theft of their images by PokerPaint. Other photographers such as Antonio Abrego have also had their work used by Butz and PokerPaint.

Harkins, who through his IMPDI Worldwide and a quarter century of poker and event work has amassed a photo archive numbered in the millions, accused PokerPaint of “skinning copyrighted images” and declared an online “cease and desist” ordering PokerPaint and Butz to stop the illegal image use:

Harkins also accused Butz of having established a track record of poor business ethics over the three years Butz has claimed to have been working on his PokerPaint startup:

Whether Harkins follows the cease-and-desist notice with formal legal action has yet to be determined. Such formal notice would be the logical next step against such alleged copyright violators.

Hochstetler denied PokerPaint usage rights

Hochstetler, who takes over this year as the Head of World Series of Poker Photo Team for PokerNews, reported being contacted by PokerPaint about the possible use of one of her photos. Hochstetler denied Butz and PokerPaint the right to use the photo, then discovered that Butz went ahead and used it anyway:

In a follow-up Tweet, Hochstetler made clear her belief that the alleged copyright violation was done intentionally and with prior guilty knowledge:

Hochstetler also noted, “He knows what he is doing. I told him no and he did it anyway. Some people are saying this is a ‘grey area’ involving copyright. It’s not. He is simply stealing other photographers’ work without permission, illegally changing it, and selling it for a profit.”

Giron and Amato also reported via social media that their work had been misappropriated by PokerPaint. Giron is noted within industry circles for avidly defending his intellectual-property rights. As he told Poker.org, “Nothing bothers me more than business entities using photography, especially my photography, for commercial, for profit uses without contacting me for authorization and negotiating a licensing agreement.”

Featured image source: Instagram/PokerPaint