Two years ago, a U.S. District judge ruled that artist Richard Prince infringed photographer Patrick Cariou's copyrights on several photographs depicting Rastafarians.
Now the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has ruled that Richard Prince largely did not infringe Cariou’s copyrights with his “Canal Zone” series of paintings in at least 25 out of 30 works, because the use of the images was "transformative" enough to constitute fair use. Judge Barrington Parker's decision makes the difference clear:
"These twenty-five of Prince's artworks manifest an entirely different aesthetic from Cariou's photographs," writes Judge Parker. "Where Cariou’s serene and deliberately composed portraits and landscape photographs depict the natural beauty of Rastafarians and their surrounding environs, Prince’s crude and jarring works, on the other hand, are hectic and provocative."
Crude, jarring, hectic, provocative...and numerous. "Appropriation artist" Prince used at least 41 of Cariou's photographs to create his paintings. (Perhaps it's time for the artist to take a photography class so he can avoid this sort of copyright infringement lawsuit in the future?) As for whether the other five Prince images infringe, that matter will be remanded to a district court to decide.