is the royalty-free business model entering the fine art gallery market?

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The recent situation with self-appointed artist Richard Prince, in yet one more of his appropriations of intellectual property of real artists and creators, centering his defense, first and foremost, in powerful attorneys, and secondly , and yet more important, using small yet exploitable loopholes in US Copyright Law, mostly arguing and “extended version” of the Fair Use Doctrine to justify the appropriation, are leading the discussion to varied and controversial positions.

Some experts in copyright and patent law argue that MAYBE there is a possibility Prince would not loose if an infringement lawsuit is finally going to court, due precisely to what could amount to a technical glitch, basically an ironical glitch, in a situation which has never happened before, therefore, there are no precedents as to what would happen in court, possibly rendering the complaints of original authors useless on legal grounds.

Those interested in hearing some of the many positions on the matter, may check links like:

https://fstoppers.com/business/latest-richard-prince-controversy-clarified-patent-and-copyright-attorney-john-71927

That said, and there is still much to hear about this, what called my attention for real, is the reaction of one of the creators affected by the recent appropriation by Prince of images from different Instagram accounts, via screen shots or whatever technical method.

Mr. Prince managed to get well known Gagosian Gallery into running this show, where stolen shots went for sale for huge amounts of money (US$ 90000 per print), and sales were going great! But the Suicide Girls, a brand username used in their Instagram account, found some of their images as part of the Prince’s show.

When asked what was she (Missy Suicide) planning on doing about it, she mentioned the many times her images have been stolen before, knowing full well copyright law only protects powerful corporations, but does little for individuals, but in addition to that , she did something that, in my personal opinion is PURE GENIUS!!

 The Suicide Girls printed their own images, the ones on display at the Gagosian, exactly in the way Mr Prince printed them, and now the prints are for sale at 99.9% discount, this is, you can get exactly the same print for only $90, if you buy it directly from her, instead of paying $90 K at the gallery.

 Here’s an excerpt from the suicide girls on the matter: “Do we have Mr. Prince’s permission to sell these prints? We have the same permission from him that he had from us.” wink emoticon I’m just bummed that his art is out of reach for people like me and the people portrayed in the art he is selling.

 “I hope you love them. Beautiful Art, 99.9% off the original price.” “We will be donating the profits from sales to EFF.org. Urban art publisher Eyes On Walls (EyesOnWalls.com) is supporting the project by fulfilling the large canvas reproductions at cost.”

 Read the Full Statement at:

  https://suicidegirls.com/members/missy/blog/2837632/tuesday/ 

 Now, my point: I find it very interesting to see how the market is going to move, after finding out that what is being sold at a Beverly Hills gallery, on a -supposedly- exclusive basis, for large amounts of dollars, is now available for almost nothing, and in endless amounts. The art world has based the perceived value of artworks, among other things, in the scarcity of the product, and whatever Mr Prince thought he was doing, might eventually backfire, when collectors and people who can afford $90k for a print, realize they could have bought it for just $90 (and still can!!)

 This would be some kind of Royalty Free business model entering the Art Market, and I am positive the can of worms that has been opened will still bring more surprises!

 I have previously discussed the repercussions of digital technologies in the Fine Art Market, and this is one extreme case, one more case, where Copyright Law is being attacked by all fronts. In recent years, Corporate America, has made a strong lobby to see the rights of individuals reduced to zero or close to it, while their rights are enhanced to absurd levels (if in doubt, check the penalties for copying any one movie in a DVD or BluRay disk, as the FBI stamp and logo threatens the infringer with prison and fines of up to $250000, while ‘individual creators just end up empty-handed when infringed and abused.

 So far, the only thing creators can do is to register their work at the Copyright Office BEFORE making the images publicly available. Many artist, and of course, the regular Facebook and Instagram user does not remotely think about it when getting ready to post their best shots, but visual artists should seriously consider investing a little money (with $40 you can register hundreds of images in one shot), as to, at least, expect the possibility of fighting a real fight in court when infringements and abuses happen with their work.

 Stay tuned, as the re-appropriation of the appropriation of intellectual property will keep giving us surprises!! 

 Cheers!

 Jorge

#richardprince #gagosiangallery #copyrightlaw #copyrightinfringement #suicidegirls #appropriation