The Prince of Copying

A look into copyright, replication and originality using the example of artist Richard Prince.

Image created by Monique Campanella
Image created by Monique Campanella

While researching for this weeks publics and publishing class I stumble across a newspaper article that spiked my interest.

Early in 2015 a well known artist and photography Richard Prince who known for his re-photography style and appropriation style of art has yet again shocked the art world with many people scratching their heads and raising question on the issue of copyright.

Prince’s recent art show comprised entirely of blown up photos that he had taken from peoples instagram feeds. These blown up instagram screen shots contained only a comment that Prince had added to the picture for him to be able to claim it as his own and thus allowing him to sell and rep the profits of up to almost US$90 000 per picture. This style of art is not new for Prince rather he is famous and has built his entire art career around appropriation. The reviews from the people who were featured in the instagram screen shot varied from feeling like it was a compliment to be apart of the art show from outrage as they had not given there permission for their instagram picture to be used like this. (To be fair I would be annoyed if my picture was being sold for $90 000 and I wasn’t a cent from it). The interesting fact is that the people who were annoyed by the use of their picture also stated that they would not be going after Prince over the issue. But why is this? It is it because Prince already won a lawsuit in 2011 for using images from Patrick Cariou’s book Yes Rasta without permission in a series of collages. With the court deciding that artwork does not need to comment on previous work to qualify as fair use. Or is it simply because as people who publish on such social networking sites like instagram we don’t know or understand our copyright rights?

I must admit as an instagram and Facebook users I have tried to keep up with the copyright laws but they seem to be forever changing and never fully disclosing to the general public wether our content can be sold to advertising and other companies with out the our permission or with out paying us for it. Interestingly enough in Richard Prince’s case instagram did not sell him the rights to use those

Photos yet he some how has got away with it thus making thousands and thousands of dollars out of them.

The fact of the matter is according to Instagram’s own term of use is that you own your pictures. But buried away in Instagram’s privacy policy is another line that could protect people like Richard Price controversial actions, which states “Once you have shared user content or made it public, that user content may be re-shared by others”.
With only limited time to delve into this case study it leaves me with many questions to ponder on. Is Prince a thief? Or is he just exercising his right to re-share user content?

What do you think?

Leave a comment and tell me your thoughts? How much do you know about your copyright rights?

If you would like more information on Richard Prince see the links below:

Image created by Monique Campanella
Image created by Monique Campanella

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