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MAR
18
8 MOS

Appropriation Artist Richard Prince Settles Photographer's Lawsuit

The closely followed lawsuit addressed what's fair use of copyright in visual arts.

Richard Prince Joelle Grunwald - P 2014
Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images
Richard Prince

'Tis the season for settling big copyright lawsuits.

The latest parties to hammer out a deal at the negotiating table are artist Richard Prince and photographer Patrick Cariou.

Cariou sued Prince for appropriating copyrighted photos from a 2000 book, Yes Rasta, which featured Rastafarians in Jamaica. In depositions, Prince admitted using Cariou's work, altering and incorporating them into a series of paintings and collages called Canal Zone, which he exhibited in 2007 and 2008 at the Eden Rock hotel in Saint Barthelemy and at New York's Gagosian Gallery.

The dispute rocked the art world and became one of the most closely watched lawsuits ever on the topic of "fair use." A wide variety of art experts, photography associations and media groups weighed in with amicus briefs.

At the 2nd Circuit in April, 2013 -- the same month that a ruling came in the just-settled Viacom vs. YouTube case -- Prince was given a big victory. The appellate judges ruled that 25 of Prince's 30 works were fair use.

Appellate circuit judge Barrington Parker ruled, "What is critical is how the work in question appears to the reasonable observer, not simply what an artist might say about a particular piece or body of work. Prince’s work could be transformative even without commenting on Cariou’s work or on culture, and even without Prince’s stated intention to do so."

There were five Prince works that provided a tougher call and the 2nd Circuit remanded those back to a lower judge to determine with the proper standard.

But the case is going no further. On Tuesday, an attorney for Cariou informed the judge that the case was settled. Add the resolution to the growing number of high-profile lawsuits ending including the other high-profile copyright vs. fair use case involving the Beastie Boys and Goldiebox.

E-mail: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner