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Four footballers win their case against Panini and the UNFP for image rights

The Panini company and the UNFP were ordered this Wednesday, May 16 by the courts to pay damages to four football players who contested the use of their image by the Panini stickers.

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Four footballers win their case against Panini and the UNFP for image rights

The Panini company and the UNFP were ordered this Wednesday, May 16 by the courts to pay damages to four football players who contested the use of their image by the Panini stickers. Vincent Bessat (passed by Caen), Jérémy Pied (passed by Losc) as well as Jérémy Doku (Stade Rennais before playing in England at Manchester City) and Bruno Ecuele Manga, passed by Dijon, obtained from the courts the payment of damages from Panini and their union.

These professionals filed a civil interest complaint in October 2021 in Paris, against Panini and its self-adhesive image albums published as part of the French football championship, considering the use of their image rights transferred to Panini by their union, the UNFP (National Union of Professional Footballers). The court ruled that the UNFP did not provide proof that its commercial subsidiary, linked by a contract with Panini, held the rights to the players' images. Therefore, “it is not justified that it could in turn transfer exclusivity to the Panini company”, according to the court.

The violation of image rights was therefore characterized, according to the judges. However, it is the commercial subsidiary of the UNFP which will have to pay the damages. “We are satisfied because the court granted our requests and was able to note that the exploitation of the image of footballers in the Panini images was abusive, so we hope that through this decision, this system which was deemed contrary to the law by the court be modified,” reacted the players’ lawyer, Me Elie Dottelonde.

This decision, which constitutes a precedent, could open the way for other players who have played in the French championship over the last five years to seek compensation. The UNFP, which reacted through its lawyer, Me Emmanuel Ronco, estimated that the court “reproaches us for not having provided the contract which binds the UNFP and the company Promofoot, a subsidiary of the UNFP. But this contract exists.

“The amounts of damages that we must pay are extremely low since the players claimed hundreds of thousands of euros and these sums ultimately amount to 6,500 euros, or between 1,000 and 2,000 per player,” he again told AFP. The parties have 2 months after notification of the judgment to appeal. In total, 15 players had initiated legal action. The eleven others had been dismissed before the examination of the merits of the case, their action having been judged inadmissible because time-barred.

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