Does anyone know who owns the Zebra Wallpaper that comes with MBP Retina Display (and Mountain Lion)? Although this is my specific task (to hunt down who owns one specific likely copyrighted image), it would be nice to know if there is a way to read the image's metadata or otherwise track in general who owns what image that ships as part of Apple's OS.
Apple and/or Apple’s licensors own the images, as stated under Apple's Software License Agreement for Mountain Lion:
The Apple software (including Boot ROM code), any third party software, documentation, interfaces, content, fonts and any data accompanying this License whether preinstalled on Apple-branded hardware, on disk, in read only memory, on any other media or in any other form (collectively the “Apple Software”) are licensed, not sold, to you by Apple Inc. (“Apple”) for use only under the terms of this License. Apple and/or Apple’s licensors retain ownership of the Apple Software itself and reserve all rights not expressly granted to you.
Yes. Apple ought to know who owns the rights to that image.
To dereference your question one level further, I suggest the right people to ask or request permission from are Apple Legal. You can contact Apple Legal through the Apple Legal Contact page.
Under "I have a question about", select "Copyright Information". Then fill in the form.
I tried three methods of finding where to find this image.
The first is a useful site called TinEye.com. It allows you to upload an image and search the web for it. For the zebra image, I didn't find anything.
The second is to open the image in Preview and check the inspector to see if there are any useful info in there. I didn't find any.
After that, you're stuck looking through stock image sites. I did find what appears to be the original on Fotolia, and Fotolia will allow you to license it for commercial use.
I noticed that there's a second, larger zebra in the backdrops. TinEye was much, much more useful here. The larger zebra seems to be from Steve Bloom and he's got a form on the site to enquire about a license.