Richard Prince’s Views on Copyright

Yesterday we reported that artist Richard Prince had just lost a copyright infringement lawsuit against a photographer he appropriated images from. Here’s an interesting snippet from an interview with Prince in which he shares his views on this matter:

Copyright has never interested me. For most of my life I owned half a stereo so there was no point in suing me, but that’s changed now and it’s interesting. I’m actually in the situation where I am being sued at the moment (by a French photographer I might add) for taking his original images and turning them into paintings. It’s something that’s really problematic for me because in a strange way now I find myself censoring things that I look at and it’s almost like I can’t do it anymore, because people know who you are. So sometimes it’s better not to be successful and well known and you can get away with much more. I knew what I was stealing 30 years ago but it didn’t matter because no one cared, no one was paying any attention. It was an attitude to do with the fact that I didn’t think there was a future.

Unfortunately that didn’t come true. I’ve now done these paintings based on Rastafarians. Basically I like the way things look; that’s all my decisions are about—if it looks good, it is good. So anyway, 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. I figured I’d do them and maybe if he objected I’d deal with that later. I really like the Rasta paintings and that was the last body of work that I have done. I only pay attention to the negativity that people have [as] a way of explaining their feeling towards my work. I think they were described as ‘garbage,’ ‘the worst’ and ‘vomit.’ It’s funny because if this guy had let it alone, well it was a very unsuccessful body of work and it would have gone away….

This is from a guy who makes millions doing what he does.

Richard Prince (via The Online Photographer)

Image credit: Photograph by Nathaniel Paluga

  • Matt

    He’s right. Most thieves don’t like to be known as thieves.

  • Michael

    What a dick!

  • drZox

    what about Andy Warhol?
    “By duplicating a photograph known to millions, Warhol undermined the uniqueness and authenticity characteristic of traditional portraiture. Instead he presented Monroe as an infinitely reproducible image.”

  • Kurt

    What a douche-bag!

  • Pdqkevin

    Because he was poor it was ok for him to steal because he had no personal worth to be taken from him as compensation? Scary!

  • A P Photography

    Over-rated and over-payed. Quite right too that he should share all his earnings with those he stole images from. If there’s one thing that really flicks my switch it’s guys like Richard Prince. The guy’s a rain-maker, selling a cure-all that cures sod all, a faker and a thief. He deserves all he gets.

  • Pauljmoleiro

    you guys are so close-minded how can you not see that he can completely changed the meaning and context of the photographs.

    how different does it have to be before he can call it his own, If you take a picture of a building are you making something new or are you just derivative of the architect who designed the building

  • Matt

    The entire concept of derivative work is, in my opinion, complete crap. You want to make a mixed media piece like Richard Prince does? Go out and capture the images yourself, then do your collage work.

  • Matt

    The entire concept of derivative work is, in my opinion, complete crap. You want to make a mixed media piece like Richard Prince does? Go out and capture the images yourself, then do your collage work.

  • Rob S

    @Pauljmoleiro – if you dont have a property release, you can sell that picture of a building. If he was just doing this for fun, fine. He made MILLIONS of selling what amounted to a photocopy. I hope he goes back to being broke when the lawyers are done with him.

  • Alex Haas

    What a pathetic argument Prince makes. And “conceptual” artists are supposed to be thinkers! It reveals the complete vacuity of who is and what his work is about. This case is a reflection of our times: Gagosian = the banker, Prince = the Junk Bond. It will all come crashing down…

  • Alessandro Casagli

    in my point of view you can use someone else media, only that once you decide what to use and the finished “artwork” is ready to be shown, you MUST contact the owner of the media originating and pay for the usage. No excuses for stealing. If he not likes that, he could still go and take his own pictures, no matter that it could not be the same, the world will keep spinning as before.

  • Bob Bowne

    Hey…Prince…how would you feel if I photographed one of you it my art and sold millions of them at art galleries, tee shirts etc.
    I bet you would have your copyright lawyer on my ass in a nanosecond!
    Even if you are young and poor…you contact the artist and make an arrangement…it could even be based on future income.
    Acting like a 15 year old isn’t going to cut it, dude.

  • Bob Bowne

    close-minded…um..go back to school? LOL.

  • Bob Bowne

    close-minded…um..go back to school? LOL.

  • Koke Momo

    Warhol has been known to screw people over and use them. He’s no better.

  • Jordan Mendoza

    I completely disagree. Prince most likely would not care (or at least say he didn’t care). Most re-appropriation artists would not be so stupid as submit themselves to such a performative contradiction.

  • Jordan Mendoza

    Great point.

  • JMinneapolis

    Shepard Fairey is worse, only in that the artists he rips off are from 3rd world countries and either do not have resources to sue him or do not find out about all the work he’s stolen.

  • JMinneapolis

    exactly, if those photographs he’s stealing from are really so pedestrian, he should be able to go make them for himself. Obviously, he sees a lot of value in them, which is why he’s stealing them.