Apple Settles Lawsuit With Photographer Over Retina Eyeball Image



Apple has settled a lawsuit with Swiss photographer Sabine Liewald over the alleged misuse of a photograph of an eyeball that the Cupertino company used during a keynote presentation for its Retina MacBook Pro. News of the settlement came in an order of dismissal issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Thursday, January 3, but the terms of the deal are unclear at this point.

Liewald’s complaint said that Apple misused an image she owned by using it in promotional materials for its new Retina MacBook Pro. As you can see from the image above, Apple used it during a keynote that unveiled its new notebook last June. Although Apple did obtain rights to the image of a model’s eye, they covered “layout purposes only” — not commercial use.

Liewald’s suit was originally filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York last October, and sought a trial by jury to determine the damages and potential lost profits. Again, it’s unclear what arrangement has now been made with Apple.

Source: CNET

  • Jonathan Ober

    Dude if Apple used my photo in their keynote I would have been stoked, not upset. And now not only will this person win money from Apple, they will win all this other business that they could only attribute to Apple using their photo. If it’s used in the presentation isn’t that layout use and not commercial or are they arguing that having that eye ‘sold’ people on the new laptop and not for instance the actual computer and it’s specs being the commercial aspects? I would buy a macbook retina if it had a photo of a cat licking itself on the screen :P

  • RyanTV

    I know what he got out of the settlement – a guarantee that Apple will never use his work again.


    To Johnathan. Layout purposes means as a ‘comp’ for the creative department to show to the client; internal use. Once the creative team and the client all like the look of it, and if they also think ‘hey we should really use that image’, then they are to re-negotiate with the photographer to use it ‘commercially’ and publicly. The photographer is a professional, meaning they derive their business from people hiring them to make an image, or leasing the use of an image already made. You very well may buy the computer based on only the computer and not the image on the screen….but Apple needs to BANK on having a visual that they know will help in illustrating the effective resolution and highest impact the screen will have on your images. Therefore they need an image that will convey and illustrate that. They felt the eyeball would convey that, and I am betting a cat licking itself would NOT make them feel/think it would help sales. I personally would laugh my ass off and possibly like Apple even more! So when a commercial client sees that they want to use an image, they are thinking that the image will help increase the ODDS of higher sales. Cat licking has low odds. For us professional photographers, if you think it will make you money, then my image has value,therefore you need to pay for it/rent it. No one would know who the actual photographer was, as credit is usually never posted for paid commercial images. Therefor all the sale-ability and value and impact stays only on Apple…not “credit to amazing Swiss eyeball photographer”. I work as a pro-photographer, and we are constantly educating others on issues like this, so sorry if it’s long winded.

  • seaaalex

    I love how people want to argue copyright infringement is ok, as long as Apple is doing it.


    This is a joke. What photographer would give such limited rights to an image Apple wished to use, unless they were hoping to milk the cash cow.”

    I’ll tell you who. A smart, seasoned, and experienced one that knows how they have been screwed a million times by ignorant people, and knows how to protect their assets.

    I’m a professional, and It does me no good if I let huge multimillion dollar companies use my images and not pay for them. You are right, we have no idea what the original contract was to start off. I can tell you this, if I knew that Apple wanted the image, you bet your ass I will milk it. Why wouldn’t I? Why wouldn’t ANYONE?! Wouldn’t Apple?! Isn’t that what they do every 6 months with a ‘new iphone’, or ‘new ipad’ when only 5% of the product is really “new”?! You have to be kidding me, all of us, if you think it’s ‘ok’ to allow a corporation to use our images, in the “hopes that we get more work from them”. I am telling you flat out, it’s one and done, under 90% of circumstances. I have shot for Apple, and I am telling you point blank they pay for NOTHING, and USE NOTHING unless they know it works for the greater image and style. They are chasing down Samsung for very similar infringements, but all that seems perfectly within their rights, but not mine to sue them for taking an image, knowing the rules and contract, and yet still using it beyond the stated terms and conditions? Go ahead and let Apple you will give your imagery away for free. I’ll keep charging, and being paid the value and worth for my work and making plenty of money. Same as Apple gets paid for their work, and we will both chase after those that take without permission of compensation. You can keep giving your shit away for free. See how long that lasts for you.

  • Matthew Gonzales Landry

    This is a joke. What photographer would give such limited rights to an image Apple wished to use, unless they were hoping to milk the cash cow. As stated, every photographer of a professional nature, would die to have their work get such exposure. This person has just insured that they’ll never get asked again. Fool. Take your money, you’ve just bitten your nose off to spite your stupid face. Enjoy your settlement, it’ll be the last cent you’ll get from any important company.

    It can also be debated that the event at which the image was used, was not a commercial event, but a demonstration, which would be covered under such terms. Either way, she’s destroyed her future prospects.

    That’s extremely degrading, you know. Some photographers aren’t in it solely for the money. Some photographers produce ART. In this case, Apple may have just wanted to use a photo that was previously used in a portfolio or project. You see in that case, the artist won’t give two fucks if Apple, or any other multimillion dollar company, won’t ever do business with him or her again. If anything, this is more a learning experience for the artist, not Apple. Stop being an ass.

  • Matthew Gonzales Landry

    Jesus, why do some Apple fanboys have to be so disrespectful? The artist can do whatever she or he wishes. Apple doesn’t have the right to breach a contract because of who they are. I love my Retina MacBook Pro, but I’m not about to say it’s okay for them to take advantage of individuals. And you people shouldn’t be so quick to defend a company making billions per year.