After over seven years of litigation brought by my alma mater, I am very pleased that the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has now affirmed that my fine art paintings and prints depicting Alabama Football since 1979 are fully protected by the First Amendment. In its lengthy and well-written opinion issued on June 11, the Court states, “Moore’s paintings, prints, and calendars very clearly are embodiments of artistic expression, and are entitled to full First Amendment protection.” This decision is harmonious with my long-held belief, also reflected in a 1995 U.S. Supreme Court ruling specifically stating that “paintings” and “prints” are forms of expression protected by the First Amendment. Sister circuits of the Eleventh have ruled similarly regarding First Amendment rights.
The University, long before it filed suit, was well aware of my clearly stated position regarding the First Amendment protection of art (click here). It was not at all necessary to bring this lawsuit in order to “protect its marks” as the University has suggested. Rather, Dr. Witt could simply have chosen to agree with the existing Supreme Court ruling which assures, “The protection of the First Amendment is not limited to written or spoken words, but includes other mediums of expression, including music, pictures, films, photographs, paintings, drawings, engravings, prints, and sculptures.” (Emphasis added.) By so doing, the University would be merely recognizing my paintings and prints fall within the same category of “First Amendment-protected” products as do books, magazines, newspapers, etc. The University has never attempted to protect its trademarks by forcing the licensing of these products that freely and frequently use UA uniforms and trademarks therein and thereon – even though these are all sold for a profit. Moreover, in spite of UA’s “hands off” policy towards the publishers of such products for decades, there has been no resulting damage to the strength, integrity, or to UA’s ability to license its marks to the full extent within the boundaries of trademark law. “Boundaries” is the operative word here, as this new ruling by the court emphatically declares.
This long-anticipated decision by the Eleventh Circuit should come as great news to all who enjoy and respect our God-given and Constitutionally protected rights. Specifically, this is a significant victory for artists nationwide who have felt threatened by the aggressive and overreaching tactics of certain trademark owners, their agents and their lawyers who operate in the multi-billion dollar collegiate licensing industry. Furthermore, the ruling helps solidify the rights of news/media organizations and photographers — both journalistic and artistic – who have also kept a watchful and prayerful eye on this case.
Throughout the course of this lawsuit, my wife, my three daughters and I—all proud Alabama alumni—have never ceased to love our alma mater, its students, its professors, its sports teams, fans and its grand tradition. We are deeply thankful for the great amount of support, encouragement and prayers we have received from people both inside, and outside, the Alabama Family. I am also very thankful that God blessed me with one of the greatest legal minds in the country, Mr. Steve Heninger. Steve was pitted against two entire law firms, who together, boasted nearly 100 trademark and intellectual property lawyers, in addition to UA’s entire Office of Legal Counsel. Hands down, Steve outshone them all in both competence and character.
I have respected the University’s trademark rights – both in my unlicensed and voluntarily licensed projects — while artistically expressing the tradition and glory that is “Alabama” since 1979. It is my hope that the University will now respect my First Amendment rights, and those of all artists, going forward. With such an understanding, it is my belief and hope that we can work together under the same mutually beneficial relationship we enjoyed for over 20 years prior to the University engaging in this protracted legal battle. I now call upon my alma mater join with me and move forward in the harmony of a respectful understanding.
Daniel A. Moore
Bachelor of Fine Arts
University of Alabama
Class of 1976