Nike’s ‘Rip-Off’ Logo Of Photographer’s ‘Jumpman’ Could Transform Copyright Laws2 min read


Image via August_0802 / Shutterstock.com

After a two-year clash, Nike was granted the right to keep its iconic ‘Jumpman’ logo depicting Michael Jordan in March, despite a photographer’s claim that the retailer had stolen his work as reference.

The battle was closely followed by photographers, as it’s not uncommon to see brands siphoning off the creative property of individuals.

On 3 December, Photographer Jacobus Rentmeester—who believes Nike’s ‘Jumpman’ branding was inspired by his 1984 photo of a leaping Michael Jordan—asked the US Supreme Court to concretely draw the line between images that are deemed “similar” and images that are ripped off, according to Bloomberg Law.

Rentmeester cited an 1884 Supreme Court decision involving an Oscar Wilde portrait, which determined that photography was to be held in the same regard as other creative fields.

The ball is now in the Supreme Court to take this case; and if it does, copyright law for creatives could alter significantly.

It could confirm if aspects of photographs deserve equal amount of copyright protection as snippets of paintings, music, and literature—which also means artists might need to take discretion when drawing inspiration from photographs in the future.

Nike has not responded to queries about Rentmeester’s recent petition.

Since 2015, Rentmeester has openly maintained that Nike had knowledge of his photograph, which was snapped for Life Magazine in 1984. He described that Nike had secured permission from him to use his photo “for slide presentation only,” but copied it to create its signature ‘Jumpman’ silhouette.

After his complaint, Nike handed Rentmeester US$15,000 for a two-year, North America-only license that permitted the use of the image in posters and billboards. However, the fashion brand apparently did not honor this promise, as the logo is still being used to this day globally.

[via Bloomberg Law, images via various sources]