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Richard Prince Copyright-Infringement Case Goes to Appeal

Cariou's photo on the left; Prince's work on the right

So Richard Prince got himself into a little trouble a couple of years ago over his use of photographs from Patrick Cariou’s book Yes Rasta. This has happened to Prince before, and Warhol before him, and probably some others before them, and for understandable reasons – Warhol, for instance, was using trademarks and other people’s photographs in his lithographs, and Prince… we’ll get to Prince in a minute. These sorts of cases are generally settled out of court, though, which is why this one is so interesting and potentially precedent-setting. Much of what Prince does is appropriation art, taking existing images (like, say, Patrick Cariou’s photographs), painting over them, cutting them up and rearranging them, rephotographing them, and then putting his name on the resulting photos and selling them for a LOT of money. (Prince also apparently had a thing years ago where he bought copies of famous books, pasted his name over the author’s name on the cover, signed the book, and then sold it as a work of art. Again, for a LOT of money.) All of this without obtaining permission from the original artist – in this case, Patrick Cariou. The “fair use” provision in the copyright statute, however, ostensibly covers this type of use, provided it’s a commentary on the original artwork. Prince, however, admitted that he didn’t use Cariou’s photos as anything but source material, and wasn’t commenting on them. So here we are. Of course, what all this means as art , if anything, is negligible, but the whole concept of “fair use” could be up in the air now, which might have some ramifications for the art world. (FULL ARTICLE: Joel Rose, NPR)