Photographer files lawsuit claiming Universal used photo without permission in new Steve Jobs biopic
In 1994, diver and photographer Carl Roessler captured ‘Maddened Attack’, an image of a shark taken off the southern coast of Australia. Four years later Apple Computers Inc. licensed the photograph to use during a presentation wherein Steve Jobs used the image to cheekily illustrate that Apple’s new PowerBook G3 laptop computer could eat the competition (shown in the video below just after the 9 minute mark).
Until now, there had been no issues with the usage and licensing of ‘Maddened Attack.’ However, prefacing one of the most climactic scenes of Universal Pictures’ new Steve Jobs biopic, the image makes an unwelcome appearance, as Steve Jobs, played by Michael Fassbender, humorously debates with a coworker what image of a shark should be used in the keynote presentation.
According to a lengthy complaint and accompanying lawsuit filed by Roessler, the image was used by Universal Pictures without permission.
Furthermore, Roessler notes that director Aaron Sorkin took extreme creative liberties with the scene of Jobs talking to a fellow employee about choosing the right shark image.
Roessler says no such conversation ever occurred and was likely based off a similar, but different story wherein Steve Jobs ‘once tasked an employee to find the perfect picture of a birthday cake to use as a slide during a product launch celebrating the five-year anniversary of a different product.’
The complaint, which can be read in full below, lists Universal Pictures, AMC, Cinemark and Legendary Pictures as defendants.
No specific amount of compensation has been requested. Instead, the complaint asks that it be determined in court and include ‘actual usage’ fees in addition to all trial fees of Roessler.
This isn’t the first copywriter issue Roessler has run into with ‘Maddened Shark’. According to a 2012 report by American Photo, Roessler’s image was used without permission multiple times, particularly after Steve Jobs’ PowerBook G3 presentation.
Unlike the other incidents though, this particular use of the image is far more reaching than any previous use, making it a larger target for lawsuits and appropriate compensation.
What are your thoughts on the matter? Does Roessler have a case? Was Sorkin out of his right to slightly twist reality for the sake of better entertainment?