Netflix Caught Up in Copyright Storm for Stranger Things Promo Pic

If you ever take a truly awesome pic you have to worry about someone stealing it someday – that just seems to be par for the course in photography anymore.

But what is always surprising, and brazen in this case if facts are correct, is when a major multinational corporation, armed with millions to spend on marketing, rips off an indie photographer and then tells him how everything is going to go down.

Image via Netflix.

Such is the tale of photographer Sean R. Heavey, who found his storm photography being used in promos for Netflix’s ultra-popular 1980s US retro series, Stranger Things.

A picture of Heavy’s of a storm was allegedly photoshopped into a science fiction image that made it look like a massive alien craft hovering above the landscape. The picture is called “The Mothership” on Heavey’s site and is a panoramic capture consisting of four images of a Montana supercell thunderstorm.

For his part, Heavey told Peta Pixel, “Netflix did not get permission from me. I don’t have the image with any stock agencies so unless they got it from somewhere else, which is an issue if so, then they are using it without permission.”

After reaching out to Netflix, FStoppers says that their response to Heavey detailed that copyright does not extend to objects in nature or “the only similarity that exists is the use of a similar cloud formation… [and so that means] an artist can’t claim a monopoly over real-world public domain objects such as a cloud formation.”

But that doesn’t change the fact that it is still Heavey’s photo. This is the second incident where the Stranger Things team has used another artist’s photograph without attribution. The first instance related to the cover art for the Stranger Things disc set that used a picture of a VHS cassette taken from photographer Gough Lui who won his trial against the company.

To view more of Sean Heavey’s work, click here.


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About the author

Kehl Bayern

Kehl Bayern is a freelance writer and editor of Demagaga.

  • Kent DuFault says:

    Netflix being a company that is cash rich, this has to be a lack of education problem. Purchasing the rights to that picture, as an element in a composite, would probably have cost them less than a hundred dollars.


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