The Overwhelming Accessibility of Digital Images Versus Copyright Laws

Today, digital images flow with extreme fluidity anywhere you go on the internet. But a case in a Manhattan courtroom may set a precedent with very long-term ramifications for what is called “appropriation” in the fine arts’ world. Richard Prince is a collage artist who sits in the middle of the heavy litigation. Prince makes collages, by hand, of magazine pages and photographs that were created by others.

In March of this year, Judge Deborah A. Batts gave out a ruling stating that Prince had violated copyright laws by using pictures from a book to create collage pieces and selling them. The ruling clashes with the art culture of the younger generation, whose members see anything that’s on the Web as “raw material” for their work. The Prince case is being appealed and many institutions, including New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art have rallied to protect what they see as an assault on the idea of fair use.