Lawsuit alleges Apple misused photo in MacBook Pro promotion

“A Swiss photographer has filed suit against Apple for allegedly using an incorrectly licensed image to promote the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, with the artist asking for damages plus associated profits,” Mikey Campbell reports for AppleInsider.

“The claim asserted by Sabine Liewald says that Apple purchased rights to use the image, titled ‘Eye Closeup,’ for ‘layout purposes only,’ but went on to display the photograph in a number of commercial applications,” Campbell reports. “As noted by CNET, Apple used the photograph to show off the company’s 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display when the product was announced in June. ”

Campbell reports, “The suit was filed on Wednesday with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, and asks for damages of each infringing use of the “Eye Closeup” photograph, profits associated with its use and incurred legal fees.”

Read more, and see the photo, in the full article here.

31 Comments

      1. Use proper punctuation. “…riddled with holes, and smells” unless the cheese is riddled with smells. Swiss cheese (the sort that is usually riddled with holes) doesn’t have a particularly strong odor, unlike Camembert, Brie, and Limburger.

        1. “Use proper punctuation. “…riddled with holes, and smells” unless the cheese is riddled with smells.”

          The comma after the word “holes” is optional, but thank god the grammar police are here in force tonight 🙂

    1. His Shadow, you are a clueless person indeed. This is called IP theft. Creators should be compensated for their work. That’s how copyright works.

      Get your lips off the bong.

      1. And why in the world would Apple license a photo “for layout purposes only”? Also, I highly doubt Apple is involved in licensing photography for its ads; that’s what its ad agency is for. I suspect either a mistake in the licensing, or ambiguity in the agreement which did not specify it was for layout purposes only.

        1. This is a better explanation. The agency typically acquires these images, and it is quite possible that someone acquired the image under one usage license and someone else didn’t realize there was a use limitation. Happens all the time. The only damages can be compensation for the normal royalty fee applied to the type of use applied by Apple. The idea of some profit share is ridiculous. Me thinks the photographer is hoping for a nice buy off to make him go away. There is no reason to believe that either Apple or their affiliated ad agencies have any reason not to pay normal licensing fees.

          1. mr spark is closer to the probable truth but creative agencies can also be a pain when copywrite is infrigned !
            In this case the creative is going for Apple as the agecies dropped Apple in it !

    2. Actually it depends on the license that the image came with. If the image is being used for a purpose outside the terms of the original license paid for, then Apple are at fault and will have to pay for the breach of copyright (as all images are copyright protected to the photographer who took the image).

      In the grand scheme of things, this is just fodder material, probably an oversight, which will be quickly resolved and buried.

  1. I wonder if the guy ever contacted Apple to attempt to discuss this IP issue? If not, then the guy ought to be slapped around for wasting court time. If so, then Apple ought to be slapped around for not resolving it fairly (assuming that the guy was willing to be fair about it, which appears unlikely). He is entitled to a fair fee for the use of his product in commercials. He is not entitled to “profits.”

    This type of story is getting really old. Is it even possible to run a business anymore without being smothered with legal crap?

  2. long time stockholder here….. I am usually the first to defend Apple…. but if lie about the use of a photographers photo usage to get a lower rate on the image, then you need to pay….

    Do you think I’m going to charge a kid the same amount for a school photo as I would charge Apple for a photo to help promote sales of their products? Who would?

    Apple may be guilty of using the photo for purposes undisclosed to the photographer…. therefore they owe more money to the photographer…. its really simple, if it happened as alleged.

    1. “Simple” means you send Apple, or their ad agency a bill for the difference in licensing costs, and it gets paid.

      “Not simple” means you file a lawsuit.

    2. Innhitman and everyone else with an opinion,
      If you are a longtime share holder then I’m sure you are aware that Apple will have no problem compensating this individual. But before all you so called “legal experts” start popping off, maybe you should wait to hear all the FACTS. This place is sounding more and more like a bunch of squabbling old hags that think they know everything.
      The bottom line is we don’t know all the facts and just because someone files a lawsuit doesn’t mean shit. You have the right to sue anyone for anything. That alone doesn’t make Apple guilty.

  3. Very confusing, Apple supposedelly asked for and got a high res version of the image for comping, which tradionally is done with low res versions only.

    Seems more of a misunderstanding if anything, I wonder how it went all the way up to her now requesting a jury trial.

      1. Does the DMCA not have a provision for parties to least try and reach an agreement before filing suits? In the UK I’d have to show the court that at least I made that attempt.

        Also does the DMCA even apply to work done by Swiss nationals?

      2. Yes it does… but (spoken as one who has plenty of copyrighted material (AND a copyright attorney))
        While it is on the owners shoulders, it is VERY odd for the owners first move to file a suit (a preemptive lawsuit is almost unheard of because it is not optimal for either party) Something smells very fishy here, mark my words.

        The more tupical approach is you contact (your copyright attorney actually) the person/group you feel is infringing asking for rectification and/or compensation. IF they refuse to negotiate rights, then you file a lawsuit against them.
        (The recent case with apple using a very similar design of the Swiss rail clock is a good example (i.e. was handled completely out of court))

      1. You can order high-res images from a stock agency to use in presentation comps. They’re usually free. Until you want to use it, in which case you buy a licence. It’s completely possible to nix something up or forget to buy the licence.

        A reputable stock agency won’t sue you if you’re happy to simply pay for the licence you forgot to buy.

  4. But since its about Apple, its “news”. When you’re famous any news is a big deal. Plus, it’s just another story that MDN can run to get more eyes on their site. And it worked. If this story was about a Microsoft ad/commercial no one would even know about it. Microsoft is pretty much yesterday’s news. I hope the photographer is compensated fairly for what ever he/she should have received originally but not a penny more. Clearly it is a mistake, Apple isn’t stupid.

    1. Plus, it’s just another story that MDN can run to get more eyes on their site.

      Yeah, we already know you’re an ordinary old hater, anonymous coward ‘Gm’. But at least you know how to defend Apple. I can’t imagine Apple intentionally ripped off a photographer. It’s more likely the photog is off his meds and going a bit overboard. Then of course there is always that paid FUD component. Wave hello Samsung!
      (^_^)/

  5. This is a non-story. Apple or their agency will settle with the guy for whatever fees should have been paid, and perhaps a little penalty. The publicity alone will be worth many times more than whatever he would have made on the photo licensing fees had they been handled properly. Next!

    1. We had a situation like this with Getty Images. We ran an image accidentally outside of the licensed usage. They were very good about it. It was totally our mistake, but they treated us respectfully. We immediately offered to pay the licensing fees (of course). Problem resolved.

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