Nowhere are the dangers of social media for artists more dramatically displayed than with recent Richard Prince appropriation of Instagram content for big dollar art market use.

The two most succinct points to remember from the above video are:

"There's a thin line between what he (Prince) is doing and what all social media companies are doing; which is, they're all running restaurants in which we come in and bring the ingredients and cook the food!" ~ Chris Hayes, MSNBC

"(Instagram) could have licensed these images to Richard Prince under the terms of use of their service, but they didn't." ~ Xeni Jardin, Boing Boing, via MSNBC

Pay attention, Flicker users. You have given innumerable numbers of your images a Creative Commons (generic) license. You are wide open to Prince-like exploitation!

Use social media with your eyes wide open: you make the cake, others make the money!

And, somewhat likely, Richard Prince may keep the money, even if he is a jerk.

Fair Use?

Whether an infringement case will emerge is unknown. We assume a Prince defense would rest on "fair use", something he's been moderately successful in using.

Richard Prince's arrogant dismissal of artists' rights is worth noting, but rest assured he is not alone:

"Copyright never interested me…I knew what I was stealing 30 years ago but it didn’t matter because no one cared, no one was paying any attention.…all my decisions are about—if it looks good, it is good.…unfortunately I took too many of these Rastafarian (images) from this guy and I didn’t really even think to ask. I don’t think that way, it didn’t occur to me to ask him and even if I did and he said no, I still would have taken them." ~ Richard Prince's Views on Copyright

Fortunately, Photo Attorney, Carolyn E. Wright, posted some guidance to help us discover what is under consideration in actual fair use cases:

U.S. Copyright Office Publishes Index of Fair Use Decisions in Support of U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator

"Register of Copyrights Maria A. Pallante today announced the launch of the U.S. Copyright Office’s Fair Use Index, which is designed to provide the public with searchable summaries of major fair use decisions. The Index was undertaken in support of the 2013 Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement prepared by the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator within the Executive Office of the President." ~ Photo Attorney, Carolyn E. Wright

Infringed Artists React

There will be much a much greater volume of response from artists in time, but the most recent, and creative, are from his exploited targets:

SuicideGirls are selling copies of Richard Prince's "originals" in a creative tit-for-tat.

Learn more detail via The Creators Project post.

Photographer Peter Coulson, another infringed artist, asks important questions on his Facebook page regarding his rights, as photographer, when a model posts his work on Instagram:

Can someone please explain to me, 

  1. legally how can a model give away a photographers copyright because the model put it on Instagram.
  2. How can it be called "Fair use" if the copyright owner gets nothing and the photocopier "Richard Prince" gets $90k
  3. Why do artists and art collectors standup for and think is ok to bastardise and profit from others work.


Visit Peter Coulson's Facebook page and add your comment!

Read the Fstoppers interview with Peter Coulson: