A&M’s Unoriginal History of the Original 12th Man
Bynum v. Texas A&M Univ. Athletic Dept., 17-cv-00181 (S.D. Tex.)
By Tyron Jensen
On January 19, 2017, sports author Michael Bynum filed a copyright infringement suit against Texas A&M University Athletic Department and the University’s 12th Man Foundation. Bynum’s complaint alleges that the defendants published an article in 2014 on the official website for Aggie athletics, which copied extensively from portions of an unpublished book that Bynum was writing at the time.
The book at issue was entitled 12th Man: The Life and Legend of Texas A&M’s E. King Gill. Bynum hired well-known Texas sportswriter, Whit Canning, on a work-for-hire basis to use Bynum’s research to write a biography of Gill, which Bynum intended to publish as the opening chapter of the book.
According to the complaint, Bynum provided draft copies of the book (including the biography) to A&M’s athletic department in 2010, in hopes of locating additional photographs for the book. Although these drafts included a copyright notice and were shown to A&M’s staff for their “review” only, Bynum alleges that on January 19, 2014, the A&M athletic department published a nearly verbatim copy of his copyrighted biography of Gill on its website. On January 22, Bynum contacted A&M and succeeded in having the article removed from the website.
Although the article was posted online for only three days, Bynum contends that it was disseminated to hundreds of thousands of people because of A&M’s widespread promotion of it. Bynum’s book has not been published; he claims that the prospects for a successful print run have been destroyed, because these are the very people that might otherwise be interested in purchasing the book. As a result, Bynum is suing for copyright infringement, seeking an unspecified amount of damages.