10 January 2009

Fair Use ~ Cariou v. Prince, et. al. is Going Nowhere

Back to the Garden, 2008 © Richard Prince

Not long ago I posted on the dispute that arose when painter Joy Garnett appropriated photographs made by Susan Meiselas. We now have something of a replay of that situation as photographer Patrick Cariou is suing artist Richard Prince as well as his dealer Larry Gagosian, and his publisher Rizzoli for copyright infringement.
"Photographer Patrick Cariou filed a lawsuit against Prince, Gagosian, and Rizzoli last week for using a number of his photographs in Prince's "Canal Zone" exhibition without his consent, pics that Cariou alleges first appeared in his 2000 book, Yes Rasta. Prince, of course, has spent decades using other images in his works. What's different this time around? Cariou says that in the past Prince has typically relied on 'anonymous commercial imagery.' This time, though, he took advantage of Cariou's hard work since the photos in question were derived from the 'ten years he spent in the secluded mountains of Jamaica, gaining access to, living and working with, and earning the trust of the Rastafarians who are the subjects of Yes Rasta.'"*
Regardless of what one might make of Prince's work, this seems like a very, very clear no-win case for Cariou. He'd likely be better off chillin' with some of this instead:

From Yes Rasta © Patrick Cariou
*This is from the Exclusive report at Cityfile.
Update: (1/14/09) You can find a report at PDN here.



Blogger Public Squalor said...

I'm surprised the courts support the re-use of those images. Given the trend to extend copyrights and strengthen so-called intellectual property rights I'm delighted with almost any legal judgment that preserves fair use.

I wonder what the outcome would be if an artist appropriated AT&T's logo or the iconic Mickey Mouse.

- peace

10 January, 2009 10:24  
Blogger zatopa said...

I'm a longtime fan of Richard Prince, but I think he's out of line in this case. The photographs he's appropriated here have nothing like the iconic status, the quality of cultural currency, of the kind of images he came to fame working with (the biker chicks, pre-Tina-Brown New Yorker cartoons, etc.) He's appropriated a set of images that reflect the sociological demands (and the ethical complications) of documentary photography as a profession. There is nothing generic about the original images -- and besides, it's not 1989 anymore; it's no longer mainstream to think of photography as an anonymous practice of catching images of society.

The money and power of the gallery structure that Prince now represents may be the bigger issue.

10 January, 2009 11:03  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

I have to say that I find this Prince escapade underwhelming in a couple of ways. First, the way he counterposes the rastas with various porn shots seems pretty dubious to me. Second, ripping off (ok, borrowing from and re-mixing) photos from advert campaigns that are just out there to make money seems pretty distinct from doing the same from some fellow like Cairou.

that said, I think the fair use regs will cover him since he can claim (1) that he is not copying but is transforming the images and (2) is offering critical commentary in the process.

And I agree that Prince is up to his ears in the art world with all that implies in terms of money and shallowness and power ...

10 January, 2009 21:44  
Blogger Roger said...

To say that Richard Prince appropriated 'anonymous commercial imagery' isn't strictly true. His knowingly post modernist copying of the Marlboro Man series drew on something that was both identifiably authored and instantly recognisable. There’s an unintentionally hilarious reaction from the original campaign’s photographer, Sam Abell posted on Youtube.

I’ve always suspected that far from taking umbrage to Prince’s lifting of their imagery the Philip Morris Corporation were rather pleased by Prince’s strategy. By seemingly offering an ironic critique of their imagery Prince instead perpetuates a brand identity at the very moment its public image was being suppressed. Just at the point when the Marlboro Man was vanishing firstly from the TV and cinema screens and then from magazines and billboards Prince smuggled it in through the front door of museums and out again through the back door into the receptive arms of a media cooing over post modernist coolness. Why should Philip Morris pursue a clear cut case of copyright infringement that would further suppress their already reviled advertising imagery?

It is the ultimate and probably unintentional ironic joke of Prince’s work that he ends up serving the interests of the very Tobacco Corporations he imagined he was lampooning.

17 January, 2009 08:32  

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