HDR Guru Trey Ratcliff Sues Time After Spotting Photos in Video

In mid-2010, Time Magazine showed off a demonstration of a slick tablet app they were making in collaboration with The Wonderfactory. As it became widely shared across the web, HDR photographer Trey Ratcliff of Stuck in Customs started receiving messages from fans who spotted his work in the video demo. Problem was, he had never given the magazine or the agency permission to use his work.

The two photographs were of a field of sunflowers and an icy lake. Interestingly enough, both photographs were flipped horizontally in the Time video. Between June 11th and June 15th — presumably after the error was realized — the video was quietly changed to show two similar but different photos:

Ratcliff then decided to file a federal lawsuit against Time for using the images without permission and for not compensating him for the use.

It will be interesting to see what happens with this case. We’ll update this post when there’s new developments.

(via Adweek)

P.S. We did an interview with Trey back in 2010 around this same time.

  • Amy (DangRabbit)

    It goes to show you that even Time is stupid enough to have employees not educated on the issue of copyright infringement. Too many people think they can just go out on the internet and steal whatever photos/artwork they like for their own use.

  • Matt Payne

    Good for him. He does great work and it seems that photos are used on the web as if they are free.

  • Tom M.

    Trey needs to assert himself here. His policy of a creative commons license is clearly and plainly stated on his site. Time didn’t miss that; they ignored it. They need to pay him.

  • young

    Trey should assert himself, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be a Federal suit. Its easy to take pot shots at the big guys, but in general it is not their intention to rip free photos off the internet. I make lots of commercials that use stock footage. When the process is in its early stages, lots of images are selected and tried without regards to licensing. As the job goes on and certain shots are getting favored, the licensing gets researched. Shots are often pulled when licensing is not obtained. If a spot goes out with an unlicensed shot, it is usually in error. Spots get pulled very quickly if there is a legitimate question about a shot, not because of a cover-up, but because a mistake was made and needed to be rectified. It happens. In this particular case, it could be that with the new and old images being so similar, someone could have simply confused the two and no-one caught the error. TIME should pony up the cash that they would normally pay for the use. If they don’t offer it up, Trey should demand it. Perhaps this has already happened and hot words were exchanged instead of cold cash. We have no way of knowing this from the article, but we also don’t know TIME’s intent, so I don’t think they deserve a bashing.

  • Zak Henry

    Taking pot shots against the big guys is what needs to happen, because they can take it.

    Time magazine is mature enough to handle themselves, and they should take this on the chin and cough up the cash, and more importantly make a public apology. If Time makes a mistake and recognizes it, people will take notice, and hopefully be more aware of the issues.

  • Koby Harati

    notice that the top right corner of the new icy image didn’t change at all!

  • Brooklyn photographer

    I’m happy that this is getting publicity, it will only bring the knowledge of copyright further up to the surface as the market is saturated with so many images. The power of the net and social media underscores how quickly this can all come to light. Ethical business, people, or you’ll be roasted.

  • Peter

    What baffles me the most is that they continued to use part of his image in the replaced version! Such audacity.

  • young

    If you look at the original version of the icy mountain on Trey’s website, you’ll notice that the only part used in the demo is the sharp peak. The parts of the image that remain in the “fixed” demo were not actually part of Trey’s photo.

  • Anonymous

    Likely the agency doing the work that dropped the ball, but Time is ultimately responsible. It’ll be interesting to see if there is any challenge to the suit due Creative Commons. Unlikely but something to look out for.

  • QT Luong

    Here is how this works: if a lawsuit was filled, Trey didn’t do it by himself, but hired a lawyer. Before filling suit, the lawyer most likely sent to Time an offer to settle out of court.

  • Anonymous

    The guy needs to get his money!  You can believe if someone violated Time’s copyright policy they wouldn’t hesitate in using an overwhelming legal team to cause as much problems as possible. 


  • Anonymous

     I’m glad this has happened. I’ve listened to a few interviews with Trey Ratcliff and he has stated that he doesn’t care if people use his photos without permission if it is an individual using it as a wallpaper or whatever but that he will go after the big company’s that don’t license his work.
    There’s no excuse for this, all they had to do was contact him and license the work.

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  • Kellyroadgraphics

    Go Trey! I’m in advertising, and checking ALL licenses before we use anything is #1. So Time, really has no excuse and neither does any outside agency they used. I think of all of us who have had their pictures stolen and can’t do anything about. Trey is in the position to set a precedence.

  • Michael Seneschal

    No updates to this I guess.