MD Historical Society suing Peabody Heights Brewery over use of Oriole Park photos

The label for Old Oriole Park Bohemian features a picture of a base runner identified as Frederick "Fritz" Maisel, a Baltimore-area ballplayer who once played on the Orioles and Yankees, approaching home plate at as a catcher crouches and tries to make a tag. An umpire takes position in front of the plate to make his call. There's a few rowhouses just beyond the rows of mostly empty seats.

Peabody Heights, the maker of Old Oriole Park, named its lager after the stadium, which once stood on the parcel where their Abell brewery now sits, and the beer and its logo link the site's baseball past with its beer-making present.

A lawsuit brought by the Maryland Historical Society alleges the Maisel picture and several others used by Peabody Heights are theirs and the brewery is in breach of contract for using them.

According to a complaint filed in district court on behalf of the society, the brewery's general manager, J. Hollis Albert III, in early May 2015 requested to use the Maisel picture and several others, including shots of Babe Ruth during exhibition games at Oriole Park, for the beer's label, promotional materials, and to display in the tasting room.

"In his email, Albert also commented that he thought the image he requested for the bottle label was part of the public domain," the complaint says.

Almost a week later, Joe Tropea, digital projects manager for the Maryland Historical Society (and disclosure: a former employee of City Paper), explained that he could license digital copies of the images and sent over TIFF files and an invoice for $15,000.

A week after that, according to the complaint, Tropea and Albert had a discussion on the phone about the fee and set up a payment plan.

But the brewery changed course in the summer when it informed MHS that, before going to print, they pulled the society's images "and used pictures in its 'possession' for the display in the Tasting Room and the beer logo," the complaint says.

Another email from Albert said that he thought the images were public domain.

The society is alleging the brewer "obtained these digital versions of the photographs from MHS's online collection or through another website that unlawfully copied MHS's photographs," the complaint says. They're seeking the $15,000 from the original contract and court fees.

The trial is scheduled to start on April 12.

James L. Rouse, an attorney representing Peabody Heights, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

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