Broward News

The Color Run 5K Files Lawsuit Over Pictures

Max Jackson is a student at Florida Atlantic University. On October 21, 2012, he traveled to Miami to snap some shots of the Color Run — a race in which people get paint dumped on them along the course. It's dubbed "The Happiest 5K on the Planet." Jackson posted the images on his Facebook page.

A rep from the Color Run, Scott Winn, via Facebook, asked if Jackson "would be interested in letting us use some of your photos in an album on our Facebook page? We'll link back to your work in the album. Our other photographers have gotten some good exposure from this."

As Jackson explained, "At the time, I was a new photographer, and this amazing new company was offering to feature my photos on their page!" He agreed to let Winn use the pics. But "what seemed like a great opportunity was about to take a turn for the worse."

He was surprised when, "in July of 2013, I walked into a Sports Authority in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania... and was handed a flier that featured one of my photos. Not only was this flier produced without my consent; it failed to give me photo credit!" He found his picture had been used in print ads, on displays in Sports Authority stores, and in the Color Run's international marketing materials.

Court documents show that Jackson wrote to Travis Lyman Snyder, founder of the Color Run, while on the plane heading back to Boca. Jackson explained that he "love[d] the Color Run and everything that it delivers" but that he was a college student "using my photography business to pay for rent and tuition, so selling my photos is how I get by." He explained that his stepdad had advised him to sue.

Instead, Jackson wrote (quoting verbatim) that he was "requesting compensation as follows: $100,000.00 US deposited into my business bank account, additionally to be named the Official Photography Sponsor of The Color Run (Internationally) for the remainder of its existence, my Logo to be added in sponsors section next to Chevy on the bottom of your web pages. My name to read at the bottom of any photo's used in legible print from the next print run forward as, Photograph by Max Jackson." He warned "if no efforts are made within 15 days, to contact me I will be forced to take further action."

Looks like Snyder was the one who took action — and hard. The Color Run filed a lawsuit against Jackson in Utah, where the company is based. The lawsuit argues that Jackson "gave the Color Run an implied license" to use his pictures and that it "inadvertently" used them in print promotions.

The suit alleged trademark infringement, false advertising, and unfair competition. The Color Run asked to be awarded attorneys' fees and compensation for damages "not less than $75,000."

An alarmed Jackson began raising money on a GoFundMe page, expecting to need a minimum of $50,000 for his legal defense. His story received a lot of attention on photography blogs, and the Color Run got defensive after people began attacking it on social media. Jackson had raised more than $5,000 by Monday, when the parties announced they settled over the weekend.

The Color Run's founder, Travis Snyder, called the dispute a "genuine misunderstanding" and said he learned a lesson: "If you are a business, when sourcing images, be explicitly clear about the use, compensation, and parameters of the agreement with the photographer. Make sure all of it is in writing, and you will ultimately help protect each other."

Jackson confirmed the settlement, saying, "It would not have happened without everybody's help."

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Deirdra Funcheon