Things Get Stranger: Man Sues Netflix

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Thunderstorm, by flickr user Thomas Bresson, licensed by Creative Commons.

There’s a storm coming

Netflix has had tons of success in the last few years, rising from the ashes to become a technology powerhouse. The business model is a low cost, subscription-based service providing content to consumers who love their tv shows and movies. One of the most successful pieces of original content is the Netflix-original Stranger Things, a sci-fi / fantasy series about kids in the 1980s who experience (you guessed it) “strange things”. Even stranger is that the now famous images used to promote the show, which an ominous thunderstorm system moving through the clouds, allegedly infringes on a Montana photographer’s copyright. As such, he is taking Netflix to court and seeking damages regarding this misuse of his image.

Sean Heavey of Glasgow, MT took the photo back in 2010. The picture shows a supercell storm cloud, a powerful formation that certainly does look strange. Although damages have not been released or specified, Heavey claims he copyrighted the image in the same year he took it. The copyright lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court of Great Falls. A lawyer from Netflix has publicly stated that there was no ill-intent and that the images are quite different, claiming no similarities in Heavey’s supercell photo. Netflix released no official comment.

After having seen the images side by side, it does appear that Netflix was quite inspired by the Montana man’s photo. The supercell is a round, ominous cloud formation that is a perfect fit for a sci-fi show like Stranger Things. According to Sean Heavey’s blog, he claims that Netflix has already said that he can’t exactly copyright cloud formations. Objectively, the similarities between the photos are obvious. Season 3 is yet to be released, but it makes you wonder if Netflix will try to calm this storm.