Apple Sued Over Distinctive “Eye Closeup” Photograph Used To Promote Retina MacBook Pro

Apple Sued Over Distinctive “Eye Closeup” Photograph Used To Promote Retina MacBook Pro

When Apple first unveiled the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro back in July of this year, they used two images to specifically highlight the incredible resolution of the new display. The first was a shot of a herd of zebras running through the grass captured by photographer Steve Bloom. And the second? A photograph of an eye in full Ziggy Stardust make-up, taken by Swiss photographe Sabine Liewald.

The only problem with that latter photograph? According to the photographer, Apple never properly licensed it to be used in Retina MacBook Pro marketing materials. And she’s now suing over it.

According to Liewald, Apple obtained the eye photograph from her agency, Factory Downtown, requesting a high-resolution version of the image for layout purposes only. Apple further emphasized to Factory Downtown that it had no intention of using the “Eye Closeup” photograph in the advertising campaign for the Retina MacBook Pro, then proceeded to do exactly that, featuring it prominently in the advertising campaign and keynote address.

The case was filed in the United States District Court for New York. It appears that Liewald wants damages including defendant’s profits, so she’s actually going for the throat here.

It sounds like a misunderstanding to us, but what’s up with Apple forgetting to pay the Swiss for their intellectual property lately?

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  • iSteve

    She should be proud that Apple is using her photo to promote world class products. What a money-minded she is?

  • FriarNurgle

    Que the lawyers.

  • bayeagle

    She should get monies for picture. At least 10 times the amount paid for Zebras plus $250,000.

  • Paul Connell

    @ iSteve

    In other words, Apple should be allowed to steal anyone’s work, use it to promote it’s products and the creators of said work should feel humbly honored that Apple chose to steal *their* work over someone else’s. What a bizarre world you would have us live in, considering the lengths Apple goes to protect it’s creations and prosecute anyone who dares take inspiration from them.

  • Atienne

    Sounds like yet another pathetic attempt to cash in on Apples success by a washed up photographer.

  • Cortney Sauk

    Hehe Apple hates the Swiss… lol It’s a conspiracy I tell ya

    Good for her, although going for profits seems like the lawyer roped her into that one.

  • iSteve

    @ iSteve

    In other words, Apple should be allowed to steal anyone’s work, use it to promote it’s products and the creators of said work should feel humbly honored that Apple chose to steal *their* work over someone else’s. What a bizarre world you would have us live in, considering the lengths Apple goes to protect it’s creations and prosecute anyone who dares take inspiration from them.

    To paul,

    Apple did not steal anything, they asked permission before using them.

  • Shaun Green

    Considering Apple is so vocal in it’s support for it’s own patent protection it seems very arrogant of them to continually disregard the IP of other companies. These are not isolated incidents, they’ve form for doing this many times over the years. I hope this lady wins and kicks Apple’s ass for a whole lot of money.

  • Shilly Devane

    If anything, Apple should be paid by this struggling artist for providing advertising and promotion. I would think 50% of future profits would be an acceptable fee to Apple.

  • Gheedsgreed
    @ iSteve

    In other words, Apple should be allowed to steal anyone’s work, use it to promote it’s products and the creators of said work should feel humbly honored that Apple chose to steal *their* work over someone else’s. What a bizarre world you would have us live in, considering the lengths Apple goes to protect it’s creations and prosecute anyone who dares take inspiration from them.

    To paul,

    Apple did not steal anything, they asked permission before using them.

    Actually they didn’t. That’s the issue.

  • Gheedsgreed
    If anything, Apple should be paid by this struggling artist for providing advertising and promotion. I would think 50% of future profits would be an acceptable fee to Apple.

    that’s not how reality work.

  • RaptorOO7

    If anything, Apple should be paid by this struggling artist for providing advertising and promotion. I would think 50% of future profits would be an acceptable fee to Apple.

    Seriously, and what planet do you live on. I hardly believe the photographer in question is a struggling artist and even if they were that would be your excuse for blatant theft of copyright or trademarked materials. You should work for Apple.

  • BeeEmm

    Where there’s one cockroach there’s a hundred. One comes out of the woodwork and then this guy on petapixel is claiming apple stole his picture to promote the ipad. http://www.petapixel.com/2012/10/12/photographer-sues-apple-over-the-use-of-her-photo-to-promote-the-retina-display/#comment-680557437

    Some people can’t get by a day without thinking the world owes them for every little thing.

  • Paul Connell

    To paul,

    Apple did not steal anything, they asked permission before using them.

    No, they did not. They were granted permission to use it for one purpose and then went on to use it for another purpose of an entirely different scope. In the graphic/art world, the specific usage of an image highly effects the price of that usage. You can’t purchase the rights to use an image for, say, an internal small layout, and then use it for a major international campaign. Apple, of course, is well aware of this, but, being Apple, they appear to believe rules do not apply to them.

  • dr_zoidberg590

    It sounds like a misunderstanding to ‘cultofmac.com’

  • Ari Ukkonen

    Sabine Liewald needs to talk to their “agent” first. Apple entered into an agreement with the agent and not her. Nobody buys a photo for layout purposes.

  • Ari Ukkonen

    Sadly, this will just result in Sabine Liewald never getting any work again. She is greedy and not intelligent enough to read her contract before signing it.

  • imnu

    I don’t see wht the big deal is. Someone thought they had the rights to use the image for marketing. They were wrong. Why don’t just say “sorry, our bad, the cheque is in the post”.

    Frankly, slagging off the copyright holder is childish. Few people would have deep enough pockets to take apple to court unless they knew they had a good chance of winning.

  • imnu

    If anything, Apple should be paid by this struggling artist for providing advertising and promotion. I would think 50% of future profits would be an acceptable fee to Apple.

    perhaps fewer artists would be struggling if companies actually paid the correct royalties

  • NeoTechni
    Where there’s one cockroach there’s a hundred. One comes out of the woodwork and then this guy on petapixel is claiming apple stole his picture to promote the ipad. http://www.petapixel.com/2012/10/12/photographer-sues-apple-over-the-use-of-her-photo-to-promote-the-retina-display/#comment-680557437

    Some people can’t get by a day without thinking the world owes them for every little thing.

    Considering Apple sues for the same thing, yes Apple owes them

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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