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Cariou v. Prince

April 25, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barrington D. Parker, Circuit Judge

Argued: May 21, 2012

Before: B.D. PARKER, HALL, and WALLACE,*fn1 Circuit Judges.

B.D. PARKER, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which HALL, J., joined. WALLACE, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.

In 2000, Patrick Cariou published Yes Rasta, a book of classical portraits and landscape photographs that he took over the course of six years spent living among Rastafarians in Jamaica. Richard Prince altered and incorporated several of Cariou's Yes Rasta photographs into a series of paintings and collages, called Canal Zone, that he exhibited in 2007 and 2008, first at the Eden Rock hotel in Saint Barthélemy ("St. Barth's") and later at New York's Gagosian Gallery.*fn2 In addition, Gagosian published and sold an exhibition catalog that contained reproductions of Prince's paintings and images from Prince's workshop.

Cariou sued Prince and Gagosian, alleging that Prince's Canal Zone works and exhibition catalog infringed on Cariou's copyrights in the incorporated Yes Rasta photographs. The defendants raised a fair use defense. After the parties cross-moved for summary judgment, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Batts, J.) granted Cariou's motion, denied the defendants', and entered a permanent injunction. It compelled the defendants to deliver to Cariou all infringing works that had not yet been sold, for him to destroy, sell, or otherwise dispose of.

Prince and Gagosian principally contend on appeal that Prince's work is transformative and constitutes fair use of Cariou's copyrighted photographs, and that the district court imposed an incorrect legal standard when it concluded that, in order to qualify for a fair use defense, Prince's work must "comment on Cariou, on Cariou's Photos, or on aspects of popular culture closely associated with Cariou or the Photos." Cariou v. Prince, 784 F.Supp.2d 337, 349 (S.D.N.Y.2011). We agree with Appellants that the law does not require that a secondary use comment on the original artist or work, or popular culture, and we conclude that twenty-five of Prince's artworks do make fair use Cariou's copyrighted photographs. With regard to the remaining five artworks, we remand to the district court, applying the proper standard, to consider in the first instance whether Prince is entitled to a fair use defense.*fn3


The relevant facts, drawn primarily from the parties' submissions in connection with their cross-motions for summary judgment, are undisputed. Cariou is a professional photographer who, over the course of six years in the mid–1990s, lived and worked among Rastafarians in Jamaica. The relationships that Cariou developed with them allowed him to take a series of portraits and landscape photographs that Cariou published in 2000 in a book titled Yes Rasta. As Cariou testified, Yes Rasta is "extreme classical photography [and] portraiture," and he did not "want that book to look pop culture at all." Cariou Dep. 187:8–15, Jan. 12, 2010.

Cariou's publisher, PowerHouse Books, Inc., printed 7,000 copies of Yes Rasta, in a single printing. Like many, if not most, such works, the book enjoyed limited commercial success. The book is currently out of print. As of January 2010, PowerHouse had sold 5,791 copies, over sixty percent of which sold below the suggested retail price of sixty dollars. PowerHouse has paid Cariou, who holds the copyrights to the Yes Rasta photographs, just over $8,000 from sales of the book. Except for a handful of private sales to personal acquaintances, he has never sold or licensed the individual photographs.

Prince is a well-known appropriation artist. The Tate Gallery has defined appropriation art as "the more or less direct taking over into a work of art a real object or even an existing work of art." J.A. 446. Prince's work, going back to the mid–1970s, has involved taking photographs and other images that others have produced and incorporating them into paintings and collages that he then presents, in a different context, as his own. He is a leading exponent of this genre and his work has been displayed in museums around the world, including New York's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Whitney Museum, San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art, Rotterdam's Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, and Basel's Museum fur Gegenwartskunst. As Prince has described his work, he "completely tr[ies] to change [another artist's work] into something that's completely different." Prince Dep. 338:4–8, Oct. 6, 2009.

Prince first came across a copy of Yes Rasta in a bookstore in St. Barth's in 2005. Between December 2007 and February 2008, Prince had a show at the Eden Rock hotel in St. Barth's that included a collage, titled Canal Zone (2007), comprising 35 photographs torn out of Yes Rasta and pinned to a piece of plywood. Prince altered those photographs significantly, by among other things painting "lozenges" over their subjects' facial features and using only portions of some of the images. In June 2008, Prince purchased three additional copies of Yes Rasta. He went on to create thirty additional artworks in the Canal Zone series, twenty-nine of which incorporated partial or whole images from Yes Rasta.*fn4 The portions of Yes Rasta photographs used, and the amount of each artwork that they constitute, vary significantly from piece to piece. In certain works, such as James Brown Disco Ball, Prince affixed headshots from Yes Rasta onto other appropriated images, all of which Prince placed on a canvas that he had painted. In these, Cariou's work is almost entirely obscured. The Prince artworks also incorporate photographs that have been enlarged or tinted, and incorporate photographs appropriated from artists other than Cariou as well. Yes Rasta is a book of photographs measuring approximately 9.5" x 12". Prince's artworks, in contrast, comprise inkjet printing and acrylic paint, as well as pasted-on elements, and are several times that size. For instance, Graduation measures 72 ¾" x 52 ½" and James Brown Disco Ball 100 ½" x 104 ½". The smallest of the Prince artworks measures 40" x 30", or approximately ten times as large as each page of Yes Rasta.

[Editor's Note: Images unavailable]

In other works, such as Graduation, Cariou's original work is readily apparent: Prince did little more than paint blue lozenges over the subject's eyes and mouth, and paste a picture of a guitar over the subject's body.

[Editor's Note: Images unavailable]

Between November 8 and December 20, 2008, the Gallery put on a show featuring twenty-two of Prince's Canal Zone artworks, and also published and sold an exhibition catalog from the show. The catalog included all of the Canal Zone artworks (including those not in the Gagosian show) except for one, as well as, among other things, photographs showing Yes Rasta photographs in Prince's studio. Prince never sought or received permission from Cariou to use his photographs.

Prior to the Gagosian show, in late August, 2008, a gallery owner named Cristiane Celle contacted Cariou and asked if he would be interested in discussing the possibility of an exhibit in New York City. Celle did not mention Yes Rasta, but did express interest in photographs Cariou took of surfers, which he published in 1998 in the aptly titled Surfers. Cariou responded that Surfers would be republished in 2008, and inquired whether Celle might also be interested in a book Cariou had recently completed on gypsies. The two subsequently met and discussed Cariou's exhibiting work in Celle's gallery, including prints from Yes Rasta. They did not select a date or photographs to exhibit, nor did they finalize any other details about the possible future show.

At some point during the Canal Zone show at Gagosian, Celle learned that Cariou's photographs were "in the show with Richard Prince." Celle then phoned Cariou and, when he did not respond, Celle mistakenly concluded that he was "doing something with Richard Prince.... [Maybe] he's not pursuing me because he's doing something better, bigger with this person.... [H]e didn't want to tell the French girl I'm not doing it with you, you know, because we had started a relation and that would have been bad." Celle Dep. 88:15–89:7, Jan. 26, 2010. At that point, Celle decided that she would not put on a "Rasta show" because it had been "done already," and that any future Cariou exhibition she put on would be of photographs from Surfers. Celle remained interested in exhibiting prints from Surfers, but Cariou never followed through.

According to Cariou, he learned about the Gagosian Canal Zone show from Celle in December 2008. On December 30, 2008, he sued Prince, the Gagosian Gallery, and Lawrence Gagosian, raising claims of copyright infringement. See 17 U.S.C. §§ 106, 501. The defendants asserted a fair use defense, arguing that Prince's artworks are transformative of Cariou's photographs and, accordingly, do not violate Cariou's copyrights. See, e.g., Campbell v. Acuff–Rose Music, Inc., 510 U.S. 569, 578–79, 114 S.Ct. 1164, 127 L.Ed.2d 500 (1994). Ruling on the parties' subsequently-filed cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court (Batts, J.) "impose[d] a requirement that the new work in some way comment on, relate to the historical context of, or critically refer back to the original works" in order to be qualify as fair use, and stated that "Prince's Paintings are transformative only to the extent that they comment on the Photos." Cariou v. Prince, 784 F.Supp.2d 337, 348–49 (S.D.N.Y.2011). The court concluded that "Prince did not intend to comment on Cariou, on Cariou's Photos, or on aspects of popular culture closely associated with Cariou or the Photos when he appropriated the Photos," id. at 349, and for that reason rejected the defendants' fair use defense and granted summary judgment to Cariou. The district court also granted sweeping injunctive relief, ordering the defendants to "deliver up for impounding, destruction, or other disposition, as [Cariou] determines, all infringing copies of the Photographs, including the Paintings and unsold copies of the Canal Zone exhibition book, in their possession." Id. at 355.*fn5 This appeal followed.



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