Swiss photographer sues Apple over 'eye' image

Malcolm Curtis
Malcolm Curtis - [email protected]
Swiss photographer sues Apple over 'eye' image
This is the image used by Apple in its advertising campaign.

A Zurich-based photographer has sued Apple for allegedly using one of her copyrighted photos for commercial purposes without a proper licence.


Lawyers for Sabine Liewald filed the suit last week in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York over the use by the computer giant of her close-up photo of a heavily made-up eye.

The photo was used to promote Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display when it was launched in June, in an advertising campaign and in keynote presentations of the product by the company, according to Liewald’s suit.

The suit, reported on Friday by the Patently Apple website, alleges that Apple obtained the “Eye Closeup” photograph from Factory Downtown, an agent for Liewald.

The multinational requested a high-resolution file of the photo for layout purposes and “was fully aware at all times that it had not acquired any rights to use the photograph without obtaining additional permission,” according to the allegation.

Apple subsequently informed Factory Downtown that it did not intend to use “Eye Closeup” in the advertising campaign for its MacBook Pro computers, the suit maintains.

Despite this, the company proceeded to “copy, publish and exploit” the photo, Liewald charges.

The photo was allegedly used for the laptop’s “advertising campaign, keynote address and related advertising materials without permission or compensation”.
The suit comes after Apple was forced to settle with Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) over the use on an iPad and iPhone application of its famous train station clock design without permission.

“The parties have negotiated an arrangement that enables Apple to use the SBB station clock under a licence agreement," SBB said last week in a statement.
In photographer Liewald’s case, her lawyers maintain that her photograph was registered through the Copyright Act.

The lawsuit also indicates the image is covered under the Bern Convention for the protection of literary and artistic works as a non-United States work, although the suit misspells Bern as “Byrne”.

The suit seeks to obtain damages and “any profits attributable to infringements” of the copyrighted photo through a jury trial.

Apple is not commenting on the case.

Liewald could not be reached and did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment from The Local.

The photographer, born and raised in Stuttgart, is noted for her fashion portraits.

Her photos have appeared in such Swiss publications as Annabelle and NZZ, as well as international magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar and Seventeen.

Other clients include such brands as Estée Lauder, Neiman Marcus, Nivea and Olay.


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