Richard Prince Faces Copyright Infringement Lawsuits as Judge Rejects Dismissal Motion

May 16, 2023

A judge in New York says that the appropriation artist’s New Portraits series doesn’t change enough to keep him from being sued.

For his Instagram-sourced New Portraits series, a collection of images that he appropriated from users on the platform and printed on canvas, a Manhattan judge has refused to throw out two long-running copyright lawsuits against the artist Richard Prince. Courthouse News first reported the decision, which is part of a larger shift in regulatory control over digital copyright, from non-fungible tokens to the legislative Wild West of AI.

After Prince moved for a summary judgment in two New York cases brought by photographers whose original images were featured in the series, US District Judge Sidney Stein signed a consolidated ruling on May 12.

The principal claim, got 2016 by Donald Graham, blamed Sovereign for disregarding the copyright on his 1998 photo, Rastafarian Smoking a Joint. The subsequent suit, likewise documented in 2016, by Eric McNatt, concerns Ruler’s utilization of his representation of Kim Gordon, fellow benefactor of the band Sonic Youth, which initially was appointed for Paper magazine in 2014. In the spring of 2015, Prince exhibited Gordon’s appropriated portrait at the Tokyo location of Blume & Poe Gallery.

The claims made by both photographers are analogous to Prince’s intellectual property lawsuit against photographer Patrick Cariou. In 2007, Prince used Cariou’s photographs of Jamaica’s remote mountains and villages as the basis for a series of visual superimpositions. In 2013, New York’s Subsequent Circuit administered in support of Sovereign, qualifying his utilization of Cariou’s photos as “extraordinary use”.

However, according to Judge Stein, Prince had not sufficiently altered his New Portraits to match that precedent.

Judge Stein wrote, “In the end, this Court comes to the conclusion that Prince’s alterations have merely modified the originals without being transformative.” Prince did not attempt to obscure the plaintiffs’ photographs or use them as raw material for a collage. The addition of the Instagram frame and the display of Prince’s own comments are likely to be Prince’s alterations, according to reasonable observers. In the Cariou and Blanch cases, alterations that were found to be transformative as a matter of law pale in comparison to these modifications.

Prince argued that “in the art context, the transformativeness of a work should be assessed through the lens of the person who has a general interest in and appreciation of…the arts” in his motion to dismiss the lawsuits. In the end, Judge Stein agreed with the plaintiffs’ claim that the work did not fulfill the satirical or social commentary requirements to legally qualify for fair or transformative use.

The adjudicator’s decision implies the photographic artists’ claims against Sovereign will proceed.

Source – theartnewspaper

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