…or at least that’s what some people believe.
A Manhattan court ruled last week that artist Richard Prince violated copyright law when he created his own art by modifying the photography of Patrick Cariou. Mr. Prince took photographs published by Mr. Cariou in a book in 2000, without permission, and modified them in some pretty extreme ways. Here’s an example – I’ll let you determine which is the before and which is the after.
Mr. Prince’s work had been displayed and sold in a prominent gallery, which was also found to have violated Mr. Cariou’s copyright. The judge ruled that all of Mr. Prince’s work be impounded and destroyed. Damages are yet to be decided. And anyone who had purchased any of this art would not be allowed to display it. Ouch.
This story was reminiscent of artist Shepard Fairey, who created the “Hope” poster of President Obama, which was very widely seen during his 2008 campaign. You undoubtedly saw this image, as I did on a trip to Provincetown on Cape Cod in 2009. I spotted a faded version in a shop window and was struck by the irony of the message on the (intentionally placed, I’m sure) hat next to it.
Like Mr. Prince, Mr. Fairey appropriated a photograph taken by Mr. Mannie Garcia, who took the image for Associated Press in 2006. Eventually, Mr. Fairey admitted that he “had based the poster on the AP photograph and had fabricated and destroyed evidence to hide the fact”. I’d say it was pretty obvious:
What’s interesting here is that the Hope poster was immensely popular and has oft been imitated, unlike Mr. Prince’s more recent creations. And in fact, Mr. Garcia, the original photographer of the President, even said he liked the Hope poster, but he did not “condone people taking things, just because they can, off the Internet.” Mr. Fairey and Associated Press settled out of court in January of this year and announced that they will share the rights of the poster going forward.
So we have two artists, who similarly created work based on the photography of others, and based on the belief that they could. But they differed in that one artist’s work was widely acclaimed and will live on, while the other’s was ordered to be destroyed.
I share this story this with you for two reasons:
The first is to demonstrate how easily (and frequently) photographs can be appropriated by others. In a future post, I’ll share information about protecting your work through copyrighting, watermarks, creative commons, etc.
But the second reason is to ask your opinion – if someone takes a readily available image and changes it into another image – is that wrong if they attribute the original photographer when presenting their new derivation?
Have you had an experience where your work was used by someone else, with or without giving you credit? (I did, without credit).
Thanks for your input, and for visiting 2 Guys Photo. – Posted by Ed