A storm could be brewing for Netflix, as a Montana photographer Sean R. Heavey has filed suit against the streaming giant, alleging that it stole his image of a cloud formation without payment or permission.
Heavey alleges a supercell he captured in 2010 was the inspiration for storm clouds featured in its hit original series, Stranger Things, as well as an original movie, How It Ends, that was loaded to Netflix in July 2018. The suit centers around concept art featured in an episode of Beyond Stranger Things—a behind-the-scenes look at how the show is created—which, according to Heavey, is a photo he took and titled The Mothership (2010).
Netflix attorney Jarin Jackson responded to Heavey’s copyright infringement claims by saying that the Stranger Things concept art is “not virtually identical.”
“The only similarity that exists between the artwork and Mr. Heavey’s photograph, The Mothership (the ‘Photo’), is the use of similar cloud formations,” Jackson told Heavey, according to a report in the Great Falls Tribune. “Copyright law, however, does not protect objects as they appear in nature.”
Heavey’s complaint focuses on the work he put into the photo. The image is “the result of numerous sequences of experimentation by Sean with various framing, exposure, shutter speed, and movement options,” his filing reads.
The lawsuit is seeking unspecified monetary damages for using the photo without permission, and also wants to block Netflix from placing the photo in its programming in the future.