Left: According to photographer D. K. Langford, this is the Texas vehicle inspection sticker designed from his photograph.
Right: This photograph is exhibit A in Langford’s suit vs. the Department of Public Safety and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
The stickers were produced by state prison inmates under a Texas Department of Criminal Justice contract with the DPS. Both agencies, which are named as defendants, declined comment Friday.
The suit says Langford’s photo was illegally appropriated by an inmate who scanned it from a copy of Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine in 1998.
Langford, who said he was surprised to learn of the sticker from a friend’s tip in June, described the litigation as a last resort.
“We’ve tried everything we can to settle this in a businesslike, professional manner between photographer and client, but we can’t hardly get them to return a phone call,” Langford, 68, said Friday.
Open-record requests identified the prisoner who scanned the photo as a man serving a life term for aggravated sexual assault, Langford’s lawyer, Jimmy Carter, said.
However, Carter said his pre-litigation delving did not pinpoint the origins of other images the state used in its new line of “cowboy motif” inspection stickers now used in 15 counties.
“If they’re going to get the images from incarcerated folks, they need to pay particularly close attention to the genesis of that intellectual property,” Carter said Friday.
He wants the court to award damages and attorney fees over what he says is an unlawful taking of an image that has generated income for Langford for 25 years.
Based on data provided by the state, Carter said between 4 million and 5 million of the disputed stickers have been issued in Brazoria, Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Johnson, Kaufman, Montgomery, Parker, Rockwall, Tarrant and Waller counties.The state should pay closer attention to the origins of its logo images, said Langford, who is not opposed to his art going for such uses — with prior approval.
“If they’d called me first, I’d bet we’d have had a deal in five minutes,” he said.
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