04/30/2012 01:38 pm ET Updated Apr 30, 2012

Viral Photo Of Falling Bear By Student Photographer Leads To Legal Action

A dispute over the ownership rights to a photo of a falling bear may land in court.

Andy Duann, a student at the University of Colorado, Boulder, says the school's student newspaper, the Independent, used his photo without payment or permission, adding that he might sue them for using it.

The photo of a bear falling from a tree on CU's campus last Thursday went viral. The bear was wandering around campus before police shot it out of a tree with a tranquilizer gun. Duann caught the bear's surreal fall.

The CU Independent posted the photo online and received 10,000 hits by 5 p.m. on Thursday, crashing the website.

Duann says that he is not a staff photographer at the CU Independent, but the Independent's adviser, Gil Asakawa, says he is. Duann says he never signed a contract or gave permission to the Independent to use the photo. He did sell the photo to other news organizations, however.

The rights were purchased from Duann by the Denver Post, The Colorado Daily, and Poynter.

Through the AP, the photo also made its way into papers like the Washington Post. The AP eventually pulled the photo after learning Duann did not release it to the Independent. The AP said they believed the Independent had the rights to the photo through their co-op.

Duann told Poynter he went to CU's law school to get advice on taking legal action against the Independent.

"We are going to write a letter to inform [the Independent] not to use the photo any more," Duann said after speaking with copyright professors, "and we will take further action to collect the money from them."

The photo quickly became the subject of memes and gifs.

Take a look at a few of the falling bear memes out there:

bear falls and becomes meme
bear falls and becomes meme