An Australian media company is suing North Little Rock sports memorabilia and photo collector John Rogers, arguing that his company violated an agreement to digitize the company’s photographs and has refused to return the collection.
Fairfax Media Management PTY Ltd., which is based in Sydney and has various properties in that country and New Zealand, also argues that Rogers Photo Archive made the photographs available to third parties, who have tried to sell the images online.
According to the lawsuit, filed Friday in Pulaski County Circuit Court, Fairfax agreed to sell some of its original photographs in March 2013 to RPA, which would then digitize the collections and make them available on two websites — one for the New Zealand photos and another for the Australian. A copy of the agreement attached to the lawsuit states Rogers would pay 300,000 Australian dollars — or about $244,000 — in two installments for the images.
The photos came from a variety of sources, including the Sydney Morning Herald and The Melbourne Age, as well as several other Australian publications, New Zealand publications owned by Fairfax and some photographs from “non-Fairfax sources.”
Under the agreement, Fairfax retained ownership and rights to the photographs until the services set out in the contract were complete. The company could also request access to a photograph and RPA was required to make it available within 24 hours.
Fairfax noted that there have been “numerous issues” since entering into the contract, including requests for items that drew no response from RPA or that were days or weeks late. A lawsuit filed last month by First Arkansas Bank & Trust against Rogers “revealed [Rogers Photo Archives’] true troubled financial condition and insolvency,” and Fairfax terminated its agreement on Nov. 24.
Under the agreement, RPA was required to return the collection by Dec. 4, but Fairfax has not received them, and instead found some of the photographs listed for sale on eBay.
“Fairfax has learned that Newport [Archives, Incorporated of Newport] and others, including the John Doe Defendants, have attempted to sell some of the [Sydney Morning Herald collection] and the [New Zealand collection] on the online auction website, eBay.com,” the complaint states.
Newport Archives is also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit.
Many of the photographs listed for sale online had either not been digitized or the digitized versions were never made available to the company, according to the complaint.
Fairfax is asking the court to order RPA to turn over the photographs and to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent anyone from selling the collection. The company is also seeking a declaratory judgment against RPA, stating it breached the agreement and has no rights to the photographs, and has requested a hearing.
Rogers’s attorney, Brett Myers of Dallas, said he had not yet been served with the lawsuit, but that he would file a response after speaking with the Fairfax attorneys. He said he didn’t know anything about allegations that someone had tried to sell any of the Fairfax photos and that he believed they were still in a warehouse in the Little Rock area.
Myers said he thought the claims raised by Fairfax were similar to those in the First Arkansas case where the bank is seeking the appointment of a receiver.
“The issues that are raised in this particular complaint probably should be addressed in the other complaint against John Rogers filed by First Arkansas,” Myers said.
The Fairfax lawsuit is one of several against Rogers pending in courts around the country:
- Rogers lost one lawsuit filed by First Arkansas Bank & Trust when the court on Friday ordered a default judgment of $14.5 million against him for failing to make payments on loans he personally guaranteed.
- In another case, a former investor with Rogers, Mark Roberts of San Francisco, accuses Rogers of fraud. Roberts claims that Rogers sold him $2.6 million worth of historic baseball photographs, but when a sample of 50 photographs was tested for authenticity, all 50 came back as problematic. Rogers has filed a separate lawsuit against Roberts in Pulaski County Circuit Court raising his own allegations of fraud.
- Rogers has also asked that a Pulaski County judge dismiss a lawsuit against him that was filed by Mary Brace of Chicago. That lawsuit claimed Rogers and another of his companies, Sports Cards Plus, owed $765,000 for his purchase of the George Burke & George Brace Collection of photographic negatives. That case is also still pending.