The Courthouse News Service explains:
The lawsuit involves only photos that the photographers shot "on spec" - meaning on speculation: to be paid per photo, not by the day or hour - and the library of "literally hundred of thousands" of such NFL-related photos.
The photographers claim they retained copyright in the photos they shot on spec, but the licensing defendants and the NFL ignored that, to reuse their work for ads, news, promotions, products, and to boost the NFL's image and profits.
"Although plaintiffs license the photos that they shot 'on spec' through third-party licensing agents (formerly NFL Photos and then Getty Images and currently AP), they never transferred their copyrights in these photos to their agents," the lawsuit states. "Rather, as plaintiffs' contributor agreements expressly provided, they retained sole and exclusive ownership of all copyrights in these photos.
"This action concerns the NFL defendants' rampant, willful, and continued misuse of photographs to which plaintiffs own copyrights. This action also involves Getty Images' and AP's illegal and unethical misconduct which permitted, encouraged, and contributed to the NFL defendants' infringements."It looks like the licensing arrangements between the various parties are key to the claim. Essentially, it seems that the photographers were, at different times, represented by Getty and AP, who licensed their images to the NFL. However, it is alleged that neither Getty nor AP were working in the photographers' best interests. One complaint being that while Getty and AP licensed the plaintiffs' photos on a "rights managed" basis, in fact they allowed the NFL unlimited access to the photos and did not track their usage. There are also claims that due the photographers also suffered due to the licensing arrangements between the NFL and the other defendants.
The photographers are seeking damages for copyright infringement, as well as damages for vicarious and contributory copyright infringement, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. They also want the NFL to be prevented from further copying, displaying, distributing or selling their images, and to deliver up the infringing photographs.
Source: The Courthouse News Service, 21 October 2013