Fifth Lawsuit Filed Against Richard Prince, Artist Notorious for Profiting by Stealing Other Photographers' Work

Fifth Lawsuit Filed Against Richard Prince, Artist Notorious for Profiting by Stealing Other Photographers' Work

Remember artist Richard Prince? If you don’t know him by name, you’ll know him by scandal. Two years ago, Prince launched a series of photos titled, "New Portraits," which by-and-large consisted of stealing photographers’ work and uploading it to his own Instagram profile, after which he screen-shot the results and printed them out, calling it his own art. Unsurprisingly, his controversial series led to four lawsuits against him. Now, he’s facing a fifth lawsuit involving a photograph of Sonic Youth musician Kim Gordon.

Photographer Eric McNatt was enlisted by Paper Magazine to shoot Gordon for the band's 30th anniversary issue back in 2014. Prince is once again up to his usual antics, this time selecting the main photo from the set of Gordon's shoot. McNatt’s photo assistant from this very shoot admitted that the creative team wasn't paid for the project and made comparisons of Prince's work to music piracy, relating to Gordon's fans illegally downloading her music. Undoubtedly, the lack of payment for the original shoot coupled with the fact Prince is profiting from the piece makes the situation even more infuriating.

What’s more, Gordon has only added fuel to the fire by uploading a photo of herself holding Prince’s artwork – and thanking him for it.

View this post on Instagram

So thrilled thank you@richardprince4

A post shared by Kim Gordon (@kimletgordon) on

Prince’s legal team, however, is confident he has done nothing wrong in legal terms. An extract from their statement reads:

[McNatt’s] complaint fundamentally misunderstands the case law on fair use and how the exemption from the monopoly of rights granted under the copyright statute applies.

They’d be likely to know, since Prince has been through this process several times before. He previously lifted images of a range of different women from their own Instagram accounts. He enlarged the photos and then added a few comments and emojis before selling the work as his own, sometimes for as much as $100,000. Prince has even managed to win court cases filed against him due to rulings that state Prince’s works to be "transformative, and thus fair use."

Is it fair that he can profit from other people’s works in this way?

[via Paper Magazine]

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Previous comments

You've sucked up that Orwellian Artspeak hook, line and sinker. "His art is not about the imagery"!? Oh please. Of course it is. He doesn't steal random bits of dirt. Instead, he steals the IMAGERY. He does and you can't deny it. So please don't tell me it's "not about" the imagery. If it's not about the imagery, then don't frickin' STEAL the imagery that other people have made. And don't RESELL the imagery that other people have made without licensing and without payment. This is really very simple. But some people get fooled by that nonsense Artspeak. Sad.

Anonymous's picture

It's ok to disagree with Marc and with Prince. It is NOT, however, ok to trash Marc for displaying knowledge of art criticism and history.

Of course it's OK. Art criticism and history is not a religion. In this case, it's full of trash and worthy of being trashed. Just because some guardians of the art world gates made this nonsense the official party line doesn't mean I have to accept it as Gospel.

Stealing other people's photos is not "appropriation". It is called stealing, plagiarism, infringement, piracy, etc. Using the word "appropriation" doesn't somehow clean it up. There is absolutely no way on Earth to copy someone's photo, resell it, and claim that you're not selling that photo because your art is "not about" the image. That is 100% pure garbage theory and 100% unethical practice. I don't accept that lie.

Photography is about the image (duh). When Richard Prince steals someone's photo, he steals the image that they made and should PAY for it. If he wants to sell a "concept", he can do so without theft. If he needs someone else's image to do so, he sure as heck ought to pay for it. Pay the creator. Plain and simple.

Anonymous's picture

I don't give a rat's patootie if you trash the concept. It's bad form to insult the messenger.

That depends on their message.

David Apeji's picture

This is an interesting perspective that you have added - that he is adding value by way of commentary. He is being handsomely rewarded for it though and I wonder where there is an intersection between art and justice if that exists.

David Tressler's picture

This is going for $200,000 starting bid.

Hypothetical question: with regard to Sam Abell's cropped 'Cowboy' picture ; (which goes beyond plagiarism, by actually being a straight duplicate of the original picture). As Sam Abell is the authour of that picture and I assume the owner of the copyright and IP, if he were to walk into an 'art gallery' and remove Prince's print of his work and walk out with it, could he be accused of theft?

The owner of the Cowboy picture is likely Marlboro (Phillip Morris). The copyright owner has exclusive rights to duplication. But I don't think they can confiscate illegal copies without a court order. In other words, the copyright owner doesn't "own" the illegal copy, but may be able to get a court order that it be seized and destroyed.