California Intellectual Property Blog


Trump Campaign Sued for Copyright Infringement for Using Bald Eagle Photo

voteOrange County – Wildlife photographers Wendy Shattil and Robert Rozinski are suing Donald Trump’s campaign for copyright infringement, after one of their photos was found on merchandise for the GOP candidate. The Denver-based photographers claim their photo “Bald Eagle Portrait” has appeared on Trump campaign materials without their permission. Rozinski photographed the once-endangered bird in 1980 and after receiving honors in 1986 from the BBC, registered the image with the U.S. Copyright Office five years later.

The two photographers spotted their photo on television in early February, while watching news coverage of New Hampshire’s presidential primary. One of the people in the crowd of a Trump rally was holding a printed sign with a photo of the iconic bird. They later learned the photo was being printed on Trump’s merchandise as well. Trump yard signs being sold on his campaign website also feature the portrait of the bald eagle.

Attorneys for the photographers soon filed a civil complaint in federal court claiming he used their bald eagle photo to sell merchandise and promote his campaign. No one involved with Trump’s campaign ever reached out to the two photographers with a request for permission to use their photo. And both claim Trump’s reference to, and use of, bald eagles throughout his campaign has been “deliberate.”
This is not the first time Trump has had a run-in with a bald eagle issue. Last August, he was a TIME Person of the Year runner-up and was establishing himself as a real contender in the presidential race. The candidate agreed to pose with a bald eagle for a TIME cover story. While being photographed, the bird tried to attack Trump’s hair and then later goes for his hand while he sits at a desk.

Attorneys for the two photographers say they have reached out to Trump’s campaign, but they were unable to resolve the matter privately. Now they’re asking for a District Court judge to find Trump’s campaign liable for direct and indirect copyright infringement. They also want to prevent his campaign from using the image any further. They are seeking compensation for related damages, requesting upwards of $150,000 for willful infringement.


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