Artist Richard Prince has agreed to pay at least $650,000 to two photographers whose images he incorporated into his own work, ending a long-running copyright dispute closely watched by the art world.
Two judgments filed On Thursday in New York, damages were awarded to photographers Donald Graham and Eric McNatt and barred Prince from reproducing the photographs known as “Rastafarian Smoking a Joint” and “Kim Gordon 1.” (by musician Kim Gordon).
These images were part of a Prince installation, entitled “New portraits” in which he printed several Instagram photos on large canvases and added his own Instagram-style comments underneath.
Graham’s image was incorporated into a work called “Portrait of Rastajay92”, exhibited in a New York gallery in 2014. McNatt’s image was used in a work called “Portrait of Kim Gordon”, exhibited in a gallery. in 2015.
David Marriott, lawyer for Graham and McNatt, said the photographers were pleased with the rulings and called the cases a “case of David versus Goliath” for the art world, and a story of principle and perseverance. »
Matt Gaughan, Prince’s studio manager, said the artist “absolutely refused to admit the violation” and had “agreed to settle more than eight years of costly litigation for a tiny fraction of what a lawsuit of his own would cost alone “.
The resolution of these cases comes eight months after the Supreme Court ruled on a major copyright dispute that questioned whether Andy Warhol’s use of a photograph in his work was considered fair use. Many experts believed the ruling would have a ripple effect on the Prince cases. But the court’s 7-2 ruling against Warhol was narrowly tailored and gave no guidance on how much of another work an artist could copy.
The photographers suing Prince argued that he had reproduced much of their copyrighted work, which could not be considered fair use. The trial in McNatt’s trial was scheduled to begin Monday, and Graham’s trial was scheduled to go to trial next month.
Prince’s lawyers said the two sides negotiated judgments under which the defense would agree to pay $200,000 to Graham, $450,000 to McNatt and $250,000 in other costs. (The judgments, signed by Judge Sidney H. Stein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, said the damages were “in an amount equal to five times the sale price” of the photographs.)
Marriott said the rulings showed that copyright law still provided meaningful protection to creators and that the Internet was not free copying.
“There is no fair use exception to copyright law that applies to celebrities and another that applies to everyone,” he said.