This post allows us to explore some of the issues raised in Prince v. Cariou, last year’s most head-scratching appellate court case.
In that case, Richard Prince, a collage or “appropriation” artist, was alleged to have taken without permission a number of photographs created by Patric Cariou for a book he (Cariou) published on Jamaica. Prince basically copied a bunch of Cariou’s photographs and then scratched them up a bit, adding little details of coarseness and drips and color. He then sold the resulting collages for millions of dollars.
The district court found Prince liable for infringement, but the appellate court, in a confounding opinion, said that certain of the pieces may not be infringing because they were potentially “transformative.” The problem, though, is that nobody really knows what “transformative” means. And, the Prince pieces were altered in such a rudimentary fashion that it seemed very unlikely that they could qualify as transformative under even the most liberal definition of the word. Yet, that is what the Court laid down, and the Court’s word is, quite literally, law.
Similar issues seem to bubble up in our most recent post. Is the artist below’s work “transformative” enough to qualify as a new, non-infringing work?
-AttorneyScott ([email protected])
The artist, Benjamin Spark, has built a career out of copying the works of others. He even attempts to justify his admitted plagiarism of other artists’ work in a section he has written on his web site explaining his “art.” The evidence of infringement, though, is clear from images of his work, a selection of which are pictured below.