updated 02:33 am EST, Thu January 10, 2013
Company had licensed image, but not for advertising use
Apple has settled a lawsuit brought by the photographer of the now-famous "Retina" eye image used to demonstrate the quality of the company's high-resolution displays. Swiss photographer Sabine Liewald argued that Apple had licensed the image from her US agency, Factory Downtown, for limited uses only and not for the promotional and advertising uses it was eventually put to. Settlement terms were not disclosed.
The image of a carefully made-up eye, showing very fine detail in the skin and coloring, eyelashes, eyebrow and iris of the eye is an example of Liewald's work, which often centers around high-fashion and model photography for commercial clients. Apple employed the image, called "Eye Closeup," to demonstrate the detail available in its first Retina display laptop, the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro in June 2011.
The company uses the term "Retina" as a catch-all phrase for its own standard of high-definition LCDs, those with pixels so small and close together that the human eye cannot distinguish them apart at a normal-use distance. The exact pixel count varies depending on the device, as users tend to hold an iPhone or iPad, for example, much closer to their face than they would a laptop or desktop computer monitor.
Liewald's initial complaint came shortly after Apple used the image as part of its public keynote address introducing the Retina display MacBook Pro. She initially said the licensing fee Apple had paid for the image was for "layout only," but clarified in court papers that she meant simply that it was not licensed for widespread public use, such as in an ad campaign. Apple used the image both in its public presentation and in later promotional images.
The photographer initially asked for statutory damages for infringing use of the photo, plus a disgorgement (portion) of Apple's profits on the MacBook Pro based on the use of the photo. Terms were not disclosed, but cases of this type are typically settled for far less than what the plaintiff initially asks for.