Cariou v. Prince

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright, Fair Use Defense
  • Date Filed: 04-25-2013
  • Case #: 11-1197-cv
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
  • LexisNexis Citation: 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 8380
  • Westlaw Citation: 2013 WL 1760521
  • Full Text Opinion

Derivative works need not comment on the original work to fall under the fair use defense.

Opinion (Parker): Patrick Cariou ("Cariou") published a book of photographs entitled “Yes Rasta.” Richard Prince ("Prince") is an artist who incorporated several photographs from Yes Rasta into paintings and collages which were shown at the Gagosian gallery in New York ("Gagosian"). Cariou brought suit against both Prince and the Gagosian, claiming copyright infringement. Prince claimed his use of the "Yes Rasta" photos constituted fair use. The district court ruled that because Prince’s work was not a comment on Cariou’s original works, Prince’s alterations were not “transformation” and no fair use defense could apply. The district court granted Cariou’s motion and issued a permanent injunction against Prince. Prince appealed.

The Circuit Court ruled that artwork need not comment on or parody the original work to be “transformation.” The Court found that because Prince dramatically altered the character and aesthetics of the photos, his work could be found transformation and constitute fair use. The court further found that, of the 30 works at issue, 25 of them were sufficiently transformed to constitute fair use as a matter of law. The court therefore OVERTURNED the injunction as to the 25 works covered by the fair use defense and REMANDED to the district court the factual question of whether the alterations made to the remaining 5 works sufficiently altered the character of the works and brought them under the fair use defense.

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