While from a bird’s eye view it may appear to be a classic case of copyright trolling, there is some pretty damaging evidence against Nike brought about in the lawsuit filed last week.
Rentmeester photographed Michael Jordan as part of a special section LIFE magazine published for the 1984 Summer Olympics as part of a 22 page “American Excellence” photo essay piece in the magazine.
In the suit, Rentmeester describes how he conceptualized the pose of Michael Jordan doing what is now known in popular culture as doing the “Jumpman pose”. Inspired by a ballet move called the “grand jeté”, Jordan would perform out of his norm in a number of ways. For starters, the pose calls for the subject to jump vertically and spread their legs outward at the apex of the leap – something that is far from a standard “basketball move”. Secondly, the pose calls for the subject to hold the ball in their left hand – Michael Jordan is right-handed.
While, statistically speaking, this will likely be settled in some form or another outside of the courtroom, Peter Moore’s direct involvement, communication, and transactions with Rentmeester will likely be the most damaging for Nike’s side of the argument. It is pretty evident that someone at Nike saw the photo of Jordan doing the pose in LIFE magazine and wanted to recreate it for their own use.
The situation is terribly complicated, but what the courts and attorneys for both sides will need to determine is whether or not a “concept” of a pose is something that one can copyright. To further complicate the matter of damages if a decision is made in favor of the plaintiff, the US Supreme Court has recently ruled in what some legal experts are calling “legislation from the bench” extending the statute of limitations on damages from three years to an infinite amount of time depending on the circumstances.