Apple sued over alleged misuse of photo in MacBook Pro promotion

Photographer Sabine Liewald's "Eye Closeup" as seen on Apple's MacBook Pro with Retina display.

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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.

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.

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.

According to the claim, Apple obtained a high-resolution file of "Eye Closeup" for what is known as "comping," or layout, purposes. Usually, comping images are provided at low-resolution and are watermarked to dissuade their use in ads or marketing without receiving permission to do so from content owners.

Although the photograph is not considered a "United States work" by the Copyright Act, Liewald says the image is covered by copyright law and is also "protected as under the Byrne Convention as a non-United States work."

Liewald asserts that by "commercially exploiting" the image, Apple caused statutory damages while "obtaining significant economic gains," suggesting the photograph is to be credited for at least some part of the MacBook Pro's success.

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.