Brian Masck alleges several entities have used this photo that he shot during the 1991 Michigan-Ohio State game without his consent. (Getty Images)
Desmond Howard says he plans to fight a lawsuit by the photographer who snapped his Heisman Trophy touchdown pose in 1991.
The Heisman winner told the Flint Journal he couldn't discuss the lawsuit extensively. The former Michigan player described it as "really odd," noting that it's been "more than two decades since I played my last down in Ann Arbor."
Freelance photographer Brian Masck has alleged several entities have used the portrait taken during the 1991 Michigan-Ohio State game without his consent, filing a copyright infringement lawsuit in January in U.S. District Court in Detroit.
Masck is suing the former University of Michigan and National Football League star, along with several other companies, for copyright infringement.
Also named in the 63-page lawsuit are Getty Images, Sports Illustrated, Champions Press LLC, Wal-Mart, Amazon and Fathead LLC, the Detroit-based sports graphics company that is part of the Quicken Loans Inc. family of companies.
"…(T)hese various intellectual property pirates who are defendants in this case have taken a business crowbar to that byline and have pried Brian Masck's name away from his iconic photograph. They have separated him from his work," the lawsuit says. "The Heisman pose and Brian's iconic photograph which captured it have both gone viral. The name Brian Masck has not."
The lawsuit further says it "hurts Brian personally, causing him enormous distress and frustration."
Masck says he never authorized the photo to be used in magazines and in memorabilia.
Howard's pose after a 93-yard punt return for a touchdown has become one of the most famous moments in college football. The lawsuit calls it "synonymous with college football and even has touched off a cultural phenomenon — striking the 'Heisman pose.'"
Even President Barack Obama has struck the pose, the lawsuit says.
But Masck says he's been cheated of the notoriety and money from taking the shot. Masck was working on a freelance assignment when he took the photograph.
Over time, Masck said he sold a few of the shots and even gave some to Howard and U-M. The photograph was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, where he was properly credited, and on the cover for the EA Sports video game "NCAA '06 Football," his attorney said.
In 2011, Masck was granted a copyright for the photo.
He also unsuccessfully sought as much as $300,000 to sell the copyright to Howard and for a separate business venture.
To ensure he can identify an unauthorized image, Masck altered the shot to remove the branding on the glove on Howard's right hand and extended the lettering on the football.
"These small alterations do not appear to the untrained eye, but assist Brian Masck in tracking infringing uses of his photograph," the lawsuit says.
Most of the defendants in the lawsuit are accused of copyright infringement. But Sports Illustrated and Nissan are named for publishing a "direct and identical copy or substantially similar copy of Brian Masck's Registered Photograph."
"My client tried for a long time to suppress his disappointment and for not being recognized," said his attorney, Thomas Blaske. "(Masck) wants a permanent injunction against the misuse of his picture and wants their profits. But even of a higher priority to Brian Masck, he wants credit. … It's no different than any artist."
The Associated Press contributed.