UPDATE Monday 2/17/14: The parties have settled. Read more from each side here.
NOTE: The Color Run has repsonded. Scroll to end of post for the response, pasted in full.
The Color Run is a race during which people wear white and get paint dumped on them along the course. It's dubbed "The Happiest 5K on the Planet" and its organizers say it's so successful that it has donated $1 million to charity. They have called it "the largest and most well-recognized running event in the world."
Yet, in a lawsuit, The Color Run is whining that it is the victim of a college kid who let the race use one of his pictures on Facebook. The student, Max Jackson, found the run was using his images in its print marketing materials, and dared to ask for compensation. He might have been a little big for his britches asking for $100 grand -- but he didn't really deserve the court case that The Color Run is trying to whomp him with.
Jackson is a student at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton and photo editor for the student newspaper. On October 21, 2012, he traveled to Miami with the university's photo club to snap some shots of The Color Run. Jackson posted the images on his Facebook page.
Screenshots provided by Jackson show that a rep from the Color Run, Scott Winn, contacted Jackson via Facebook. He called the pictures "awesome" and 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 flyer that featured one of MY photos. Not only was this flyer produced WITHOUT my concent, 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 photograpy business to pay for rent and tuition, so selling my photos is how I get by." He explained that his stepdad, a cosmetic dentist, had advised him to hire a lawyer and sue in federal court.
Jackson wrote that instead, 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, Photogrph 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. It says Jackson, on his Facebook page, listed the Color Run as an employer and used the run's trademark and logo. The lawsuit contends that the Color Run is "the largest and most well-recognized running event in the world" and donates $1 million to charity, yet it's the victim here.
The suit alleges nine different causes of action, including federal trademark infringement, false advertising, and unfair competition. For most of the counts, the suit asks to be awarded attorneys' fees, compensation for damages "not less than $75,000" and "an amount three times the greater of Jackson's profits derived from... Jackson's wrongful acts."