A Spokane Valley artist is suing the owner of a downtown flyfishing shop and the publisher of an Oregon-based magazine, claiming they used a piece of his work without giving him credit.
Franklin Duncan, who is acting as his own attorney, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Spokane on Jan. 31.
In it, Duncan accuses “Flyfishing” magazine publisher Frank Amato and Propp’s Rod & Fly Shop owner John Propp of copyright infringement, fraud and unfair trade practices.
David Gunderson, Propp’s former partner, and Oregon photographer Jim Schollmeyer also are named as defendants.
The suit arose from an article published in the February 1993 issue of “Flyfishing.”
The article describes how Ken Smith, Duncan’s father-in-law, makes custom reel seats for flyrods out of gold.
The four-paragraph story was illustrated with photographs of two flyrod handles showing Smith’s work. One of them was decorated with a scrimshaw produced by Duncan.
The magazine’s cover contains a picture of five flyrods, including the one with the scrimshaw, which depicts a fisherman casting his line in a mountain stream and a trout rising to take the fly.
Schollmeyer took the photographs.
The story does not mention Duncan.
The artist, who could not be reached for comment, claims in his suit that it should have.
Amato should have credited him as the scrimshaw’s author, because the artwork is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, the suit states.
Efforts to reach Amato at his Milwaukee, Ore., office were unsuccessful.
Propp and Gunderson are named as defendants because Duncan claims the men sent the flyrod with his work on it to Amato after Smith lent it to them.
The suit states that Propp and Gunderson proofed the article, but never told Duncan about it or the pictures.
Duncan claims that the two men, whose business was mentioned in the story as a place to get information about the custom flyrods, received a lot of business after the article appeared.
“As a result of this omission, Duncan has failed to receive commissions for scrimshaw and other decorated flyrods that he would have received had he been properly credited, and Propp and Gunderson received substantial orders for decorated flyrods that they would not have received had Duncan been acknowledged as the author,” the suit states.
Earlier this week, Propp called Duncan’s charges ludicrous.
Propp said the story had nothing to do with the scrimshaw but was solely about work done on the flyrods by himself and Smith.
“It was just a story,” said Propp, now the sole owner of Propp’s Rod & Fly. “It didn’t result in anything big anyway. Franklin’s just out to make a buck any way he can.”
Propp said his shop received numerous inquiries from people who read the article, but few orders.
The rods’ $4,200 pricetags scared off many customers, Propp said.
Duncan wants a jury trial and is seeking a new article in “Flyfishing” stating that the scrimshaw was produced by him.
He also wants unspecified monetary damages and legal fees.
Smith, a retired laboratory technician, said this week he didn’t know his son-in-law was filing the suit.
“I don’t know what to say about it,” Smith said. “I don’t know the rules of copyright or anything. I do know they left a lot of names out of the article.”