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emmit_star.jpgThe image you see here is copyrighted by Walter Smith, Impact Images. Do not steal it. Because Smith has good lawyers who will sue you, like they sued the Cowboys. The Cowboys coughed up the money, but they also barred Smith (Walter, not Emmitt) from returning to Texas Stadium to take pictures in the future. Kinda vindictive. But, heck, Texas Stadium won’t be around much longer anyway.

The full release:

(Dallas) — The Dallas Cowboys have agreed to pay a local photographer $275,000 to settle the lawsuit he brought after the Cowboys organization used one of his copyrighted pictures without permission.

Walter Smith, of Impact Images, captured the image of Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith kneeling on the star in the middle of Texas Stadium during a game against the San Francisco 49ers on September 28, 2000. Emmitt struck his pose just after 49er wide receiver Terrell Owens did a post-touchdown dance on the star, in a game San Francisco eventually won, 41-24.

Walter Smith provided the Cowboys organization with a digital file of his photograph, which the team considered using on season tickets. Though the Cowboys ended up choosing another design, the team eventually bought 250 copies of the picture–bearing the photographer’s copyright–for resale to the public.

Then, without seeking his permission, the Cowboys began using the image of Emmitt and the star on t-shirts, sweatshirts and other items. The photographer discovered the copyright infringement himself, when he stopped by a Cowboys booth at the State Fair of Texas, and saw Cowboys merchandise adorned with his picture.

“Essentially, the Cowboys organization stole Walt’s paycheck,” says Jim Davis of Davis Munck, P.C., in Dallas, who represented the photographer in his case against the team. “Taking pictures is how he makes a living. The Cowboys knew this because they had purchased copies of the photograph to sell in their pro shops. Apparently, they thought they could use the image on their merchandise without paying Walt. I’m quite certain they don’t think that anymore.”

Under terms of the settlement, submitted to a federal district court in Dallas, the Cowboys agreed to pay Walter Smith $275,000 and to cease using the image in any promotion or advertising. Also included in the settlement is a clause that bars Walter Smith from returning to Texas Stadium to take photographs in the future. The team also tried, but failed, to bar him from Dallas Desperados games.

“For the Cowboys to add insult to injury by closing their gates on Walt tarnishes the very star Emmitt Smith was trying to defend,” Mr. Davis says. “It’s just plain vindictive. If anyone should be angry about what happened, it should be Walt Smith. He’s the one whose property was taken and used without permission.”