Priceless Data: Apple Faces Lawsuit for Lost Baby Photos

"I'm backed up baby..." Photo: Hilary Camilleri

I’ve said it before, but it would be remiss not to mention it again: Back up your data.

Sad reminder of this again when I saw a recent story on PetaPixel about a guy who is taking Apple to court over lost baby photos, saying the failure of a storage device caused him to lose priceless memories. Perminder Tung used an Apple Time Capsule to back up his photos. The Canadian man claims that the device failed and that Apple subsequently told him that data was gone forever. Tung, a lawyer, says the data included the birth of his child and is now suing for $25,000 to compensate for the lost memories. Sad. But is this really Apple’s fault? Hell no. Drives fail. As photographers and filmmakers who depend on the retrieval of data not just for nostalgia – but for our living – we must accept this fact and take the necessary steps to avoid being int the position of the forlorn Mr. Tung.

This is one of the most important fundamentals–not just for professional photographers and filmmakers like us–but for anyone with valuable digital content that’s worth backing up. You can review my workflow video on how to back up your data here.

The workflow video I hinted at above, under the link “said it before” walks you through steps you can take to NOT be this guy. This may well be the most important behind-the-scenes video we’ve made, not because it’s fancy or sexy, but because it covers arguably the most essential information on a set of topics that every photo and video person should understand: workflow, storage and backup of your precious images. This video covers all the ins and outs, the theory and the details of our complete photo and video workflow from capture to archive and everything in between. It’s a tad dated, given some updates in technology, but the theories are crucial and sound. So whether you’re a seasoned pro, an aspiring amateur, or just starting out in photography or video we’ve worked hard to make this worth your time.

Too cute baby photo: Hillary Camilleri and Angela Smith

42 Responses to Priceless Data: Apple Faces Lawsuit for Lost Baby Photos

  1. jeff denapoli June 19, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    If it was not on his computer, then it was never “backed up” on the Time Capsule in the first place. That should be fairly easy for Apple to counter. This is America nowadays though — the culture of blame and litigation where no one takes responsibility their own failures.

    • Frank June 19, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

      He’s Canadian.

  2. Tharek June 19, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    Hi Chase,

    I think the link to your workflow is broken?

  3. Luis Murillo June 19, 2012 at 9:02 am #

    The drive might have died but, I don’t know if apple time capsule uses a proprietary file system that can’t be read anywhere else, he could pay a data recovery service to have the data restored because if it was a simple drive failure then it’s quite easy to restore.

  4. Chris June 19, 2012 at 9:04 am #

    Unfortunately, this is yet another example of people looking for someone else to blame for their failures.

    In this particular case, the idiot in question is a lawyer, so he decided to file a frivolous lawsuit blaming Apple for his failure to adequately back up his data. This would be like my leaving a cup of water out in the sunlight all day and then suing the cup manufacturer when the water evaporated. Drives fail! Back up your data, folks!

    (you don’t have to use as elaborate and expensive a set-up as Chase uses… you can simply buy an external hard drive and copy things over onto it! Not quite as robust, automated or convenient, but for most people’s needs, it’ll do the job just fine!)

    • Matthew June 19, 2012 at 10:45 am #

      It’s…. not like that at all. In addition, everyone reading this article assumes that this guy must have been a professional, tech savvy photog….. he sounds like a normal guy to me.

      • Chris June 20, 2012 at 11:27 am #

        Um, no. If you read the article, it very clearly said that he is an attorney, not a photog… not that it matters: if he was a photog it would be even more inexcusable for him to not have his data backed up properly.

        Any tech-savvy person knows that hard drives die. They have fragile metal parts that spin at very high speeds. And they die. Sometimes they die quickly, sometimes they perform for years before dying. But they always die. That is why you always have your data on more than one drive. The fact that he lost his baby pictures was his fault and his fault alone.

  5. starvngartst June 19, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    one of the reasons why some people are going back to film. film is immortal.

    • majortom June 19, 2012 at 10:11 am #

      Unless it gets lost, drowned, burned, etc. Backup copies? Not without loss of quality.
      Of course you could scan every frame, then you’d have digital copies you could back up and — oh, wait….

  6. Garry June 19, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    If this passes and the guy gets compenstated, then 100s and 1000s of additional attempts will follow. The compenstation based climate we live in now just keeps getting worse.
    I think I have some old negs and slides somewhere that are scatched and damaged beyond printing can I hold kodak, ilford and fuji responsible for not suppling them in a scratch resistant case after development. Or is it my own fault for not STORING them correctly.
    Regardless of storage type or media, the same care should be taken with all priceless memories, and photos are no exception, and with digital media being so convenient to back up online, on alternative or multiple storage devices and of course in print then I really dont think that Perminder Tung has a leg to stand on in court.

    PS I do store all my files correctly and have negs that date back almost 25 years still in a perfect condition. Storage is crucial in the professional trade.

  7. Angel June 19, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    Do everything for a good external backup and Print! , for important memories there nothing like prints. If the moment is so special print it.

  8. Bluestill June 19, 2012 at 9:24 am #

    I think am one of the most techno geeks on this earth. At times I am sitting in a coffee house and I have something going on with my iPhone in my left hand, my tablet in my right and while I am listening to my iPod. But sometimes I think about how far technology has taken us and the whole back up everything phenom. Perhaps sometimes instead of backing up everything, we should consider taking a step back as well by make a hard copy of anything you truly charish. And then updating that copy in your vault maybe once a year so you can ask yourself “is this still all that important to me? Do I need to keep updating this”? I know for some people this is a stupid crazy insane idea, but for me. It gives me a physical connection to the things I consider “important”. I feel Tung’s lost because I had some notes on my memo pad which I had created and backed up with iCloud and it glitched and was gone forever into that big iCloud Black Hole somewhere in the universe. I got mad, I cringed, I may have felt like crying, but never did the thought “sue Apple” enter my tiny little peanut. I sure hope Mr Tung keeps a hard copy of the court documents for this ridiculous lawsuit.

  9. Roman June 19, 2012 at 9:28 am #

    “Drives fail”. We know that, but does it really have to be this way?
    If corporation like apple will be responsible for your data, maybe they will use HDD producer who will guaranty longer HDD live… Maybe then HDD producers will start compete for better standards…
    Backing up will be always important due to human factor or disaster. …But corporations should start to take responsibility for their overpriced products.

  10. Ron June 19, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    Hard drives fail – it’s inevitable.

    The best indicator that your hard drive is about to fail is when you say out loud, “I should probably back this stuff up soon.” and then you don’t.

  11. Adam C June 19, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    I feel that he may be within his rights. depending on how old the device is, if it was the device itself or the software that transferred it … He may have a sound case. Yes we need to back up our files because drives fail but at what point do we start looking at manufacturer error rates and quality inspections… Apple is awesome but not perfect. We backup drives because we know one day its gonna go out, not because we got our finger stuck to the delete key.

  12. Chris June 19, 2012 at 9:51 am #

    You are so on point all the time in your opinions expressed and advice given. I 100% agree, I love how you always look out and take care of other people! You always find the time to care..great work my friend! Cheers & Love!

  13. Charles June 19, 2012 at 10:19 am #


    Your workflow video (which I watch as a reminder regularly) provides great instruction, and rocks. Are you still using Aperture 3 in your studio’s workflow?

  14. DanielKphoto June 19, 2012 at 10:42 am #

    Hey Chase, you forgot to mention this other superduper informative CJLive episode on workflow This one is even more in depth and was very helpful for me. Ever since I’ve watched that video I’m using more or less the same system in my work/dataflow :) And everyday I’m glad, ’cause it works very well :)

  15. Chris Mathews June 19, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    $25,000 for compensation? Where did he come up with that number? Although Apple in no way deserves to be sued for something like this, I would say my number for losing precious memories that are irreplaceable would be valued at more than $25,000.

    • MikeD October 15, 2012 at 9:21 am #

      Why $25,000? Most companies have an amount over which they will litigate. In the 90s at Chrysler they had what a lawyer friend called “Go away money”, about $15,000. It was for people who sort of viable claims but it would not be cost effect effective to fight the claim. Apple may pay and include a non-disclosure agreement.

  16. Mark Cornell June 19, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    Thanks for pointing this out Chase. I saw the article the other day and thought similar thoughts to myself. Everyone, regardless of how tech savvy they are, needs to be responsible for ensuring their data (photographic or otherwise) is protected from hardware failures, mother nature, thieves, etc. The list could go on and on.


  17. pete sutton June 19, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    Thats why I also backup important family photos the old school way. I print them out. A hundred years from now my great grandchildren can find them in the attic. I guarantee they won’t be able to find my photos on a long gone external harddrive or flickr account, or Facebook, if it is still around.

  18. Stephen Foster June 20, 2012 at 5:19 am #

    Next thing you know they will sue over the camera not taking the photo they envisioned in their mind. It is sad that this has not been tossed out already. Some people need to wake up and accept responsibility for their own stupidity rather than blaming someone else or a company in hopes of making some money..

  19. faisal June 20, 2012 at 6:05 am #

    Everybody wants to have a pie of Apple’s huge cash pile.

  20. Girish June 20, 2012 at 6:11 am #

    One has to understand that even with so many updates coming in and technology advances happening objects that depend upon electricity / electronics have a good chance of going bad. You simply CANNOT stop that from happening.

    Everyone knows the importance of “Backing you data” I guess even children might know that. You should have 2-3 back ups minimum. If it’s on the web, wonderful.

    Why didn’t this particular person use the “cloud” option to save / back up his data. am not a Apple / MAC user, but isn’t cloud option available to all the products.

    Why mention him being a Canadian.. :P

    I think all the companies should now add a line, “Its sensible to back up your data” There is no point filing a law suit over this. He has to learn a few lessons in backing up his data.

    I am sure we have all lost so much data in the past..if everyone goes filing a law suit.. crazy thought :D

  21. RvF June 21, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    Good reminder Chase, we as photographers should all know about the need to back up data, but I’m not sure how aware is your average Joe about the importance of doing it. Some people give reliability and technology for granted, till they get burned!

  22. Mike June 22, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    “Time Capsule is a revolutionary backup device that works wirelessly with Time Machine in OS X. It automatically backs up everything, so you never have to worry about losing your important files.”

    • Justin July 1, 2012 at 4:40 am #

      Good point. Chase’s post is misleading. it does not identify that the lawsuit is about the failure of a backup system and not a primary drive. Time capsule is marketed by apple as a safe backup system. Many of the posts here seem to suggest that it was the user’s fault for relying on the product for the very purpose for which it was sold. By analogy, if I drive and maintain my car in the manner recommended by the manufacturer, and the wheel falls off, is that my fault? The only question here is did the user of time capsule set it up right.

      • Brian York October 8, 2012 at 4:25 pm #

        When I worked as a server Admin I saw so many issues with proprietary backup systems. If it puts your file in another type of file then there is an additional layer of possible error. The backup could become corrupt making the whole thing not work and you generally only will find this out when you have already lost data.

    • Christopher September 6, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

      I’m glad someone pointed that out.

  23. david June 24, 2012 at 10:27 pm #


  24. Oliver @ PicBack July 6, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

    I see that Perminder Tung asked Apple if the data from Time Capsule could be recovered. Apple said no, but has he asked for a second opinion?

    Apple are great at lots of things, but not data recovery experts. This is what we do here at PicBack.
    We have successfully recovered data from many damaged Time Capsules. They can be a little more difficult to work on but are still just hard drives at the end of the day.

    While we can’t guarantee that data can be recovered every time, we have all the right tools for the job.

    If anyone else is in the same position then they can read more about out service here –

    This story should stand as a warning that drives do fail and that it is always a good idea to have several backups of your valuable data.

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