6 January 2016Copyright

Artist hit with copyright complaint over ‘Rastafarian’ image

Artist Richard Prince, who once claimed “copyright has never interested me”, has been hit with a lawsuit from another artist over the unauthorised use of the “Rastafarian Smoking a Joint” photograph used in one of his exhibitions last year.

Donald Graham, angered by the reproduction of his image at an exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery in New York last year, filed the complaint at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York on December 30.

The Gagosian Gallery has also been named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

In the complaint, Graham labels Prince an “appropriation artist” due to his “blatant disregard of copyright law”.

The “New Portraits” exhibition, held from September 19 to October 24, featured a number of framed screen shots of other people’s posts from social media website Instagram.

Each image included comments from the user richardprince4 underneath the pictures.

The disputed image, called “Rastafarian Smoking a Joint”, shows a Jamaican man with long dark hair smoking a marijuana cigarette. The photograph was taken by Graham during a two week excursion to Jamaica in 1996 and was first published in the Communication Arts magazine.

A modified version of the photograph appeared in Prince’s exhibition with a comment from Prince reading “Canal Zinian da lam jam” underneath.

In the lawsuit, Graham references a  2011 interview in which Prince stated that: “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 ... So, sometimes it’s better not to be successful and well known and you can get away with much more.”

Prince has been the subject of copyright disputes before.

In 2013, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that his use of 25 images in his exhibition “Canal Zone” was protected by fair use, despite a lower court previously ruling that he had infringed French artist Patrick Cariou’s copyright.

The dispute was remanded back to the court but the parties settled the lawsuit.

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21 November 2016   Artist Richard Prince has been named in a copyright infringement claim by a fine art photographer.