Photographer Thrilled That Apple Using His Photo As Default iPad Background, Despite No Official Agreement

from the see,-it's-not-so-bad... dept

In my experience, there is a group of photographers who are even more extreme in their copyright views than groups like the RIAA and MPAA. It’s certainly not all (or, perhaps, even most) professional photographers who are like this, but there is a group of very, very adamant photographers who absolutely freak out about any use of their works without compensation. They even get upset if they feel that another photographer isn’t getting enough compensation for every single use of a photograph. Since they tend to be independent, they don’t have the clout of a large organization like the RIAA, but they make up for it in aggressiveness. We’ve see it in the discussions that have compared microstock photo websites to drug dealers and even in response to our recent post about a misguided takedown of a guy who was promoting stock photo images on his blog — where some photographers were quick to call us idiots. Yes, how dare we suggest that such a use of stock photography is fair use, despite legal precedent suggesting a decent chance that such a blog was legal. Since their response doesn’t go beyond calling us all “idiots,” it’s difficult to judge the reason, other than they just don’t like it.

Given all that, I found this story about the photographer, Richard Misrach, whose photograph was chosen by Apple to be the default wallpaper for the iPad, quite interesting. That’s because, while he’s been talking to Apple for a while, the company only came to him days before the launch to ask to use the image, and no agreement had been worked out by the time the product launched with the photo there. But unlike some, Misrach didn’t freak out. He still thinks it’s cool, and knows that it’ll work out:

“The funny thing is that I don’t even have a contract with them yet, so they must have decided on it at the eleventh hour,” Misrach says. “I’m sure they’ll send me one quickly now. But I’m very happy, I’m sure it’s fine, and the terms are good.”

Now, yes, this is a bit different, since there is a contract on the way, but he doesn’t know what the terms are, and he doesn’t seem to care that much, recognizing that this is good no matter what. And the same thing is true of blogs, like the one we discussed above, whose sole purpose was to promote stock images and direct people back to the site to purchase the rights to those images.

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Photographer Thrilled That Apple Using His Photo As Default iPad Background, Despite No Official Agreement”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

It’s very easy for someone to get overly excited over their picture being used. For example, I regularly use Mike Masnick’s publicly available photos on others wedding, anniversary, birthday and other sham events I make up as I let my mind wander.

Often, these events have a physical address that ends up leading people to a non-existent event that occurs in the middle of a lake, large pond, or a boat ramp. But that doesn’t discount the value of the effort, right?

I mean if you’re at the boat ramp and have no way to get to the island, I suppose it’s my fault that you didn’t walk the 150 meters to the Marina to ask if they had a boat paid for and reserved for them. Geez. Get it the freaking boat, if you crash it, I was smart enough to buy the freaking insurance. Just drive the damned boat…

I’m sorry. Got a little mad there.

Point is, it’s not Apple’s fault. If you want to bitch about something as small as a picture, Steve will be sure not to use you next time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Chosen as default

The iPad has not been shipped. It’s probably a bit soon to say whether it was chosen as the default wallpaper or not. It was probably somebody’s wallpaper in Apple and they put it on the iPad ‘cos it looked cool and then thought later on about sorting out the rights.

This is more likely to reflect poor handling of submitted imagery within Apple. They have a process for acquiring images (and recording who the image belongs to) but it clearly takes longer to actually sort out the details.

Johnny Lilburne (user link) says:

McLuhan was correct

He said “Gutenberg made everybody a reader. Xerox makes everybody a publisher.” Today he would have added that digital photography has made everyone a decent snapper.

People can now see the results of their efforts instantly and learn to be better. There are squillions of good tutorials online for free. People can also learn from their peers on photosharing sites. The standard of amateur photography has increased massively in the last decade.

Sorry, pro photographers, but you’ve been found out and the gig is up.

Johnny Lilburne (user link) says:

Re: Re: McLuhan was correct

Is that the one where the winning “leaping wolf” photo was recently found to have been faked?

To be honest, I’d rather take my own photos of wildlife here in my backyard. Here I can see genuinely wild animals and photograph them.

I can see things that look like dinosaurs:

Johnny Lilburne (user link) says:

Re: Re: McLuhan was correct

Sorry, I hit submit instead of preview *blush*

I can see feral animals:

I can see animals that make me smile:

I can see beautiful birds:

I can see weird animals:

And I can see some of the most deadly animals:

And many of these photos were taken with a fixed-focus, no zoom, fully auto camera that came free with a batch of toner cartridges.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: In the eye of the beholder

The photo taken by Richard Misrach was good. It took time and effort to plan, execute and presumably (given that he is earning a living from this) a number of people felt that they would like to view it in a gallery etc.

Your photos are not very good. It is quite common for a photographer to challenge themselves with constraints such as using an instant camera. They still take good photographs because they understand the equipment and have good composition.

I’m not just having a go. I have a reasonably good camera and have taken a few photos that I like (in addition to a large number of mediocre and poor ones). I recognise talent in other people’s ability to take photographs.

John Doe says:

Re: McLuhan was correct

Funny how people who don’t take pictures thinks it is so easy. Yes, it is easy to snap a picture. It is hard to snap a good picture. It is extremely hard to snap a great picture.

Also, the tutorials teach you the basics, just like a recipe teaches you how to bake cookies. But if you want to stand out, you have to stray from the recipe. This is where creativity comes in. You are either creative or you aren’t as it is not a learned skill. Yes, you can learn some, but mostly you are born with it.

Spectere (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: McLuhan was correct

It’s not the camera, it’s the person behind it.

You can’t give just anyone a set of the finest paints and supplies and expect them to paint you a masterpiece. Likewise, giving somebody an expensive digital camera isn’t going to make them a master photographer. Hell, I’ve seen people with $2000 digital cameras do patently dumb and/or pointless things (like, say, using a strobe on full power on a lit stage in the distance). You throw a cell phone in someone’s hand and they could easily wind up with a better photo than someone with a $2000 camera; certainly not a cleaner picture but an overall better one.

That said, it’s ignorant to disregard the skill of some of these professional photographers. The great photographers over the years don’t just take snaps, they use the camera to create art. In Misrach’s “Pyramid Lake (At Night),” for instance, there is much more to the photo than simply the scene itself. The vignetting and long exposure time (which created the star trails) are one of the things that truly made the photo. Even if someone were standing in the same spot as Misrach, taking the photo at the exact same time, it would come out very differently.

jealous hordes says:

Re: Re: Re: McLuhan was correct

cheap and easy to buy automobiles are showing us that there are many talented drivers around… cheap and easy to buy cooking utensils are showing us that there are many talented cooks around… cheap and easy to buy musical instruments are showing us that there are many talented musicians around… cheap and easy to buy computers are showing us that there are many talented moron commentators around…

what’s your point you idiot? grow the f*** up! get a life and prove your point instead of putting others’ talents down. so demeaning and ignorant to be taking this wanton careless attitude. your life must be miserable. sorry about that.

OG says:

Re: McLuhan was correct

Sorry, I’d like to see you try to produce a photo of the same quality as what is published in National Geographic or any magazine reproducing “art” photography. Don’t open your mouth if you don’t know what you’re talking about.

I am not a professional photographer (not even close), but I know there’s a difference between amateurs and professionals. Not all professional photography is art, but not all painting, sculpting, or pottery is art either.

FWIW says:

Just a Thought

For those of you who know little about photography, you might want to educate yourselves prior to commenting upon the subject.

The field of photography encompasses more than point and shoot digital cameras.

One of the more glaring and incorrect assumptions is that everyone is now a good photographer simply because they can afford a point and shoot digital camera. This is not the case at all.

Comparing similar formats, prints from a point and shoot are easily discernible from an 8×10 film camera. In addition, with a tilt and shift lense, the view camera is capable of producing pictures way beyond that of a point and shoot digital camera.

That aside, I think the comments should address the topic at hand rather than the capabilities or merit of cameras in general. I understand the resentment towards those who beat their chests and make threats, but they are the minority. It does not reflect well upon yourself when you make disparaging remarks towards stereotypical targets, although I’m sure you feel much better afterwards.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Just a Thought

One of the more glaring and incorrect assumptions is that everyone is now a good photographer simply because they can afford a point and shoot digital camera. This is not the case at all.

Exactly. Its like telling a chef his meals are good because he has good pots. The camera is only a tool, it is how you use it that makes the difference.

Radjin says:


Personally I don’t complain at all on the use of my photographs on anything that does not generate income for the user, with the exception of a non-profit. Meaning they are free to use it for income. However, a regular business that procures income using my imagery I will expect a fair share of the profit; and I am never fool enough to complain when someone on some blog uses my photographs in a way that sends people to me to purchase them.

wijnands (profile) says:

I’m a hobby photographer myself. Occasionally one of my photos is chosen by a company, usually a publishing company. They tend to ask and we agree on a small fee.

I also get emailed by private individuals who want to use one of my works on their personal website. Unless it’s in a context with which I totally disagree I tend to allow it for free.

Another category is people who don’t ask permission, that tends to annoy me especially if they don’t link back.

Only on one occasion I’ve issued a takedown notice. Someone had copied one of my pics onto their flickr account and was presenting it as their own work. Tried to solve it via mail but no response whatsoever.

In this case, apple using it on many millions of devices, I think a decent fee would be in order. Apple can afford it.

Ronald J Riley (profile) says:

“Photographer Thrilled That Apple Using His Photo As Default iPad Background, Despite No Official Agreement”

Isn’t the point that the photograph is his property and it is his decision about rather to donate it or not.

Now maybe he sees this as his break and hopes to sell other photographs. But what happens if all his work is taken without compensation?

It is interesting that Apple’s engineering talent is used to milk customers at every turn and that they expect to be paid very well while they disrespect others intellectual property.

Ronald J. Riley,

I am speaking only on my own behalf.
President – – RJR at
Executive Director – – RJR at
Senior Fellow –
President – Alliance for American Innovation
Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
Washington, DC
Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 – 9 am to 8 pm EST.

Ronald J Riley (profile) says:

Re: Re: As A Matter Of Law, IP is Intellectual Property

Rather you like it or not it is property and while there are no criminal sanctions associated with stealing there are civil. Just look at how big serial infringing tech keeps getting their tails kicked.

Ronald J. Riley,

I am speaking only on my own behalf.
President – – RJR at
Executive Director – – RJR at
Senior Fellow –
President – Alliance for American Innovation
Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
Washington, DC
Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 – 9 am to 8 pm EST.

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Isn’t the point that the photograph is his property and it is his decision about rather to donate it or not.”

It’s free publicity. And if you read the article, he was in talks with Apple about them using his photograph. It hadn’t been signed yet, but clearly he hadn’t shown disinterest in Apple using his creative work on their Ipads. Otherwise there wouldn’t have been talks in the first place.

Call me Al says:

I dabble in photography myself and was overjoyed when one of my photos from Flickr was picked up by a travel website for use. I’d published it under a fairly relaxed license and all I asked was that it be correctly attributed to me.

As someone above pointed out the Digital camera has revolutionised photography. It has become so much easier to produce reasonable photos which undoubtebly has a massive effect upon the photography market.

It still takes a lot of time, skill and effort to produce brilliant photos (the kind that win competitions) but the general, run of the mill photography most used is no longer scarce at all.

leichter (profile) says:

The reason some photographers are so “over the top” on the issue of copyright is that they see their business model disappearing. Many photographers made a nice living off of sales of their stock photos. Not so long ago, there were only a few stock photo agencies, and before digital photography, physically producing good images, finding appropriate images, getting copies and such were labor-intensive enough that the market supported high prices. You could live off the stock photos you sold.

The emergence of low-end, cheap, mass-scale digital stock photography has destroyed that market. Sure, some – perhaps much – of the stuff available isn’t up to the old “professional standards.” But some is – and even more important, much that isn’t is “good enough.” It’s just about impossible to live off of stock photos any more. This is sad for the photographers – really, it is, some of them are real artists – but economics and reality don’t change because something is sad. And it’s certainly better for the larger economy: Anything that makes a product that’s in demand cheaper frees up resources to do something else that’s in demand. As with many such economic shifts, there’s a broadly spread benefit that hardly anyone notices, and a sharp loss that really hits a small population hard. The hard-hit population will understandably be upset – but that’s, sad to say, life. Even if you believe that society owes you “a living wage,” it doesn’t owe you an income for doing the particular thing you want to do.

As to Richard Misrach and his lack of angst over his non-agreement with Apple: A fundamental economic good is trust. Trust that the party you deal with won’t try to rip you off. Trust that “we’re in this together, we’ll both profit if we work together.” Our over-lawyered/over-legalized society loses sight of that sometimes, and it costs us dearly. The fact is, even today, most business is transacted informally, without anything written down – and certainly with no lawyers involved. Mainly, it all works well – and a damn good thing, since our economy would grind to a halt otherwise.

So … kudos to Mr. Misrach for his willingness to trust. And here’s hoping that Apple does the right thing to reward him. I believe they will – but if they don’t, they should see their reputation badly stained.

TechWeasel (profile) says:

Good for Misrach. He’s doing it right and I hope he gets proper credit and correspondingly increased demand for his work.

As a side note, cheap and widely available digital cameras don’t make good photographers. They make it more likely that people who will become good photographers have the means and opportunity to discover their talents and hone their skills, removing barriers to entry. Same thing happens with writers and the internet; not every blogger is worth reading by any stretch, but people who are good writers now have an easier time finding an audience and honing their skills (and eventually making money).

Remember when photography required costly rolls of film and you had to go to Costco or the drugstore and pay $10-$30 to get your pictures developed?

hank mitchell (user link) says:

i can tell you as a photographer that my fellow photographers are the absolute worst copyright supporters, most short-sighted economists, and most pretentious of all creative professionals. They generally have a secret fantasy of taking the “world’s greatest picture” and then licensing it to every magazine and living off one shutter press for the rest of their lives. It’s this motivation that forces them into a all or nothing copyright stance that ends up hurting their business. The odd thing is most photogs are actually working in a service model and not a royalty model but they don’t realize it. If you are paid to take pictures of a motorcycle companies products for a calendar, the pictures are technically of no value except to the company that commissioned them, then the company gladly gives them away for free. But photographers attempt to demand crippling royalty rates for material that is merely promotional. Since most famous/sucessful photographers can demand high shooting fees, this suggests that the real success as a photographer comes from the attention/service side of the business and not the licensing side. FYI I have a non-profit project for free stock photos, where the only payment is exposure. Search for “free baltimore photographs” for more information and our position on copyright if you have any interest.

The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

I can’t help but think this story would be different if the Itampon had been released with the image on it and no credit given. That it is only a pre-release situation sort of changes everything.

I personally wouldn’t trust Apple very far, they are relentless and very tough negotiators. I can’t help but think this guy won’t like the end deal (unless he expects little, then he will be happy anyway).

ebsherman (profile) says:

Johnny Lilburne, it’s fine to enjoy taking your own photos. Some of the ones you linked to are OK. But none of them even approach average pro wildlife photos, let alone great ones. That’s not a knock, but I am another noting that technology doesn’t make good photography. Good photographers do.

As for Misrach, he’ll likely be taken to the cleaners. We’re talking about an incredibly wealthy company that expects the pic to help drive sales of its new product. That’s worth significant money and he should be paid accordingly.

Claiming that “that this is good no matter what” and then to say “And the same thing is true of blogs, like the one we discussed above, whose sole purpose was to promote stock images and direct people back to the site to purchase the rights to those images,” is contradictory and flies in the face of the experience of most who have tried working for exposure (pardon the pun). I’ve been a working writer for years. I’ve done some high profile work, and I can count on my fingers the number of times that someone has said, “I’ve seen what you can do and would like to talk to you about an assignment.” For many reasons (how few members of an audience buy work and the tiny chance that the few people who might need work or rights coming across your stuff when they actually need something), exposure isn’t a good form of marketing for solo photographers and writers. Will you find some annecdotal evidence to suggest that it does? Sure. But you wont’ find anyone who can really make a living depending on that evidence.

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

As for the people over at Istockphoto calling us idiots. They still talk about copyright infringement as theft, when CLEARLY no property has been taken, and in fact it had added value to their pictures. So they must be very shortsighted.
The worst thing you, as an artist, can have, is obscurity.

If you don’t want anyone to showcase your work, even if they do it for free, then what do you expect the end result is?
What is better little to no sales, or a few extra sales through added exposure?
I know what I’d choose.

I would be thrilled if they’d take my Flickr pictures and mocked them in similar fashion. I could learn from it.

Moose (profile) says:

I think it is refreshing to see this kind of trust happening in an ever more cutthroat world (call me sentimental if you will). Of course it may not be trust but the fact that the photographer actually sees that he is almost guaranteed to benefit from this interaction. Even if for some reason Apple refuses to pay him for the picture, the exposure from its use (and even more if he tries to fight the decision) will probably drive more people to view/purchase his artwork than he has ever had before (I actually trust that Apple will pay him though). This is all assuming that Apple does indeed decide to use it as the default background for the iPad.

Jamie Carl (profile) says:

Well, as a photographer I have to say that I’m quite disappointed at some of the short-sighted comments by some here. When people say crap like “Sorry, pro photographers, but you’ve been found out and the gig is up.”, I shake my head, sip my coke and sigh with pity. If ANYONE can take good pictures these days, then why am I getting paid for it and they aren’t?

Mike’s article is pretty spot on though. I know a lot of photographers that covert their work and will charge people if anyone so much as looks at it. Personally, I give a lot of my stuff away for free and don’t care. My mentality has always been “if you put it on the Internet, expect people to copy it”. Which is why none of my commercial paid work goes on the net because someone has specifically paid for it.

If I was this dude in the article, I’d simply tell Apple, put a small watermark with of my name on the photo in the top right corner and have a nice day. Sometimes getting your name out there is a lot more valuable than the 100 bucks you’d get for a photo licence.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Their little bit of turf it being invaded by the masses and they are not a “unique snowflake” anymore.”

The masses aren’t willing to spend $10,000 on a single lens. The amatuers can bottom feed all they like with thier medioce “pro-sumer” gear, but equipment costs alone ensure that the actual talent pool isn’t contaminated with wannabes.

Rachael Towne (profile) says:


I’m sick to death of artistic arrogance. A $10,000 lens means nothing to me. I have a $700 camera and shoot with the stock lens. Does that make me a “wannabe”? What if I truly love taking pictures but don’t have gobs of money just laying around to buy new gear? What if I have a family to feed with most of my money and see taking what most people consider good and even great pictures for some extra cash as a great thing? Does that make me a “bottom feeder”? Some sort of low life?…because I don’t have $10,000 to throw at a goddamn lens? I was invited over by a rather famous photographer named Bret Lopez because my husband has worked for him in the past. He shot for Vogue and Coca Cola to name a few names. This man is filthy rich and most likely has one of those $10,000 lenses. He said and I quote “a great picture comes from the photographer and not the camera”. He proceeded to show me some phenomenal shots he took with various low end cameras just for the heck of it…Polaroids, a pinhole camera, etc.

Anonymous Coward says:

McLuhan was correct

I’ll give you a secret. Anyone who is technically capable can learn to take a good photograph, and oftentimes complete amateurs get lucky, but a good series of photographs? A body of work that actually says something, has layers of meanings, looks great, and is relevant socially, culturally, etc…? Good luck, let me know how that goes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Just a Thought

Who cares about the cameras descriptive capabilities? (4×5 vs 35mm, and on and on) Anyone who says “photographers, you’ve been found out” won’t even begin to comprehend what you’re saying here, although I admire the effort. I think camera capability should be the last thing discussed once you “know”. Technique is a must for whatever you’re trying to say with your camera, yes. We are flooded with great images all day long now, but the hardest thing to do is make a series of great images that tell an interesting story with depth and layers of meaning. This eliminates about 98 percent of the digital generation, and about 1 percent of the art photography world.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...