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Missouri photographer sues New York Times Company over Sowers photo from Chiefs game

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan on assistant Katie Sowers

Katie Sowers is in her third season as an NFL assistant coach, working for San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. She is from Hesston, Kansas.
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Katie Sowers is in her third season as an NFL assistant coach, working for San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. She is from Hesston, Kansas.

A Missouri photographer is suing The New York Times Company for allegedly using her photo of Katie Sowers without permission, according to a complaint filed May 24 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

Photographer Stephanie Campbell took the photo of Sowers during a Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Francisco 49ers football game August 11, 2017 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.

It was said to be the game when Sowers learned she would be making history as the NFL’s first openly gay and second full-time woman coach. Her new role became a national news story.

The photo did not appear on The New York Times website, said Ari Bevacqua, director of communications for The New York Times Company. But it appeared in an article belonging to a former partner of the newspaper. That article was titled “49ers first woman coach turns internship into full-time job” and appeared on the Women in the World website Aug. 14, 2017.

Campbell previously sued Mennonite magazine and Goshen College in Indiana in 2018 for using the same photo of Sowers without Campbell’s permission.

“It’s important for people to realize artists spend a lot of time trying to create artwork and society benefits as a result of that,” said Arthur Shaffner, one of Campbell’s attorneys representing her in the most recent lawsuit.

Campbell knew Sowers from playing for the Kansas City Titans in the Women’s Football Alliance when Sowers was general manager of the team. Campbell was granted “unparalleled access” to photograph Sowers’ reaction when she learned about her hire, the complaint said.

Campbell registered the photograph with the U.S. Copyright Office Oct. 10, 2017.

The New York Times Company has not filed any court documents in response to the complaint.

Bevacqua said Women in the World had exclusive control over the content on that site. The photo used on the article was later replaced.

Campbell is seeking an injunction to prevent further infringement, destruction of all records and materials involved in the infringement, damages and attorney fees.

Campbell is represented by attorneys Scott Strohm and Shaffner, of the Intellectual Property Center, LLC in Overland Park, Kansas.

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