Las Vegas court asked to decide ownership of casino ad photo

Attorneys for a Florida photographer have ordered Station Casinos LLC of Las Vegas to stop using his copyrighted "hot dog girl" photo in sports book advertising.

Instead of obliging, Station sued the man on Friday in federal court in Las Vegas, claiming the company owns the rights to the photo. The suit was filed against Fred Holt, dba Fred Love, of Hallandale Beach, Fla.

Love has obtained a copyright for the photo, called "Mindi Smith Hot Dog And Ketchup," and displays what appears to be a touched-up version of the photo on his website www.fredlove.net.

The photo shows a blond woman in shorts and a low-cut shirt holding a ketchup bottle and a hot dog.

A touched-up version of the photo with the woman in a red top appears on the Station Casinos’ website.

In another version of the photo, the model is wearing a football official’s top.

The suit says that in 2009, Station hired marketing firm Ink Refuge Inc. to create an ad for a large-scale campaign to promote the sports books at its locals casinos.

Ink Refuge than contracted with publisher NiteGuide Media Inc. to obtain a photo for the campaign, and NiteGuide employed Love as the photographer for a photo shoot, the suit says.

The suit says NiteGuide and Ink Refuge officials arranged for the photo shoot. They also provided models, wardrobes and props, and gave creative direction to Love, Station's attorneys claim.

Love also was directed by NiteGuide to deliver the photo at issue to Ink Refuge with the understanding Ink Refuge would own the copyright, the suit says.

The photo was then used in Station’s advertising campaign with the understanding that Ink Refuge transfer to Station Casinos all copyrights to the photo, the lawsuit says.

Two years later, Love applied for and received a copyright registration for the photo from the U.S. Copyright Office in August, the suit says.

Since then, Love’s attorney has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Station asserting Station’s use of the photo is infringing on Love’s copyright, demanding Station stop using the photo, demanding an accounting of Station’s profits and seeking a "reasonable settlement offer," the lawsuit says.

Station, in its lawsuit, said Love "fraudulently obtained the registration and asserted false claims of copyright infringement against plaintiff (Station) because he believed plaintiff would pay him a monetary settlement to avoid the time and expense associated with defending his bogus claims."

The suit seeks a declaration that Love’s copyright is invalid and unenforceable.

A request for comment was placed with Love and his attorney.

Station is represented in the lawsuit by the Las Vegas office of the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP.

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  1. Sounds like a simple work-for-hire case to me. The photographer must be nuts if he thinks he can prevail in this. Do you think he is being advised by Righthaven? :)

  2. No, it actually sounds like the photographer wasn't paid by Stations for the work he did. At the time, wasn't Stations going through a bankruptcy proceeding? Just wondering if Love was paid and, if he wasn't, then his actions seem justified.

  3. This is the crux of the matter if the language from Stations in the suit is to be believed: "...and NiteGuide employed Love as the photographer for a photo shoot, the suit says."

    If Love was in fact an employee then he has no grounds to stand on. If he was contracted and paid then again he most likely has no grounds given how most contracts like this are written.

    If in fact NiteGuide never paid a contract (as opposed to a wage or salary) then Love *might* have grounds, in my non-legal opinion.

    Look at it this way. I am a programmer who is employed by a firm, not contracted. If they should fail to pay me my salary I doubt very much that I could claim a copyright on the work I've done for them during the unpaid period. It would be a radical decision that copyright resides with an employee until he is paid for his labor.

    Given the information in the above story, whether Love was an employee or a contractor it is still a work-for-hire. It is only the case of him being an unpaid contractor that makes it interesting, if that is the case.

  4. Sounds like Station has a solid case to me...