Ruling: Appropriation Art Infringes Copyright and Cannot Be Displayed by Bona Fide Purchasers

Richard-Prince-Canal-Zone-007(courtesy of @johnmccrory) From PhotoDistrictNews, March 21, 2011: “A federal court judge in New York ruled on Friday that appropriation artist Richard Prince and his gallery infringed photographer Patrick Cariou’s copyrights by creating a series of paintings and a collage from photographs torn from Cariou’s book titled Yes, Rasta.”

Eight of the paintings sold for a total of $10,480,000, and now those buyers have been ordered not to display those paintings. As one art dealer’s post has noted:

“Pssst….hey buddy…wanna see an outlawed Richard Prince painting? I’m not sure that the recent ruling by U.S. District Court judge Deborah A. Batts (that paintings from Richard Prince’s series “Canal Zone” cannot now lawfully be displayed by the collectors who parted with millions of dollars to buy them) won’t make the works all that more precious to their owners. I’d love to know what the judge thinks those collectors need to do to comply with the ruling. Hang a velvet curtain over the paintings? Keep them crated and in storage for eternity? Something even more absurd?”

Professor of Law Peter Friedman at Case Western has the best instant analysis of this decison and its implications. He has also embedded the PDF decision.