A&E Accused Of Infringing 3D Jesus, Lincoln Image Copyright

By Joseph Mandour on October 22, 2012

lincoln Los Angeles – A&E Television Networks LLC is facing copyright infringement claims from a graphic designer and illustrator who says the company’s History channel made unauthorized use of his copyrighted 3D computer graphic representations of Jesus Christ and Abraham Lincoln.

A&E and production company Left Right Inc. have willfully infringed Raymond Downing’s copyrights in his virtual Jesus and Lincoln images and animations, and have taken advantage of the works far beyond the scope of the limited license granted to them, Raymond Downing and his company Studio Macbeth Inc. claim.

Beginning in 2008, Studio Macbeth and a History executive producer struck a deal to license Downing’s virtual Lincoln for a program for the channel entitled “Stealing Lincoln’s Body.” History first broadcast the program in 2009, and Downing won an Emmy award for his work on it.

The explicit terms of the virtual Lincoln license agreement limited A&E’s rights to use the Lincoln images solely for the program, according to Downing’s complaint.

A&E later commissioned Downing’s 3D digital recreation of the face of Jesus from the Shroud of Turin for a program alternately titled “Resurrecting Jesus” and “The Real Face of Jesus?” Once again, the rights to Downing’s images were strictly limited to the specific program, the complaint says.

Downing also personally appeared on camera in connection with the services he provided during the production of the series, and the channel’s use of his own likeness was similarly limited, he says.

Given the “overwhelming success” of the Lincoln and Jesus programs, Studio Macbeth developed another concept for a program about the 40 days Jesus supposedly walked on Earth following his resurrection. Downing licensed A&E several Jesus-related animations for use on the 40 days program, and consulted on various scientific aspects of the program.

Instead of being produced as a critical, historical and scientific investigation into the events described in the New Testament’s post-resurrection accounts, as Downing believed, though, the 40 days program resulted in a purely religious examination of the biblical stories.

“Unbeknownst to plaintiffs, defendants were in fact not interested in any scientific inquiry into these New Testament events, and notwithstanding any and all material representations to the contrary, defendants were solely interested in the exploitation of plaintiff Studio Macbeth’s original Jesus animations which could not be duplicated or otherwise recreated by defendants,” the complaint says.

A&E blatantly breached the licensing agreements for the virtual Jesus and Lincoln images by using them beyond the scope of the original programs they were licensed for, according to Downing. All of the company’s rights to use the graphics terminated upon their failure to comply with those licensing agreements, he says.

Downing launched the action in Los Angeles federal court in July, but the case was transferred to Manhattan federal court on Friday.

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