Key Fair Use Case Settles, Rather Than Continue (And, No, It's Not The Beastie Boys)
from the settlement-day dept
However, a much more important copyright case, also settled. The legal fight concerning fair use between photographer Patrick Cariou and famed artist Richard Prince also happened to settle on the very same day. We'd been covering that important fair use case, which really highlighted the importance of the "transformative" step in determining fair use. Prince had taken photographs of Cariou and created "collage paintings" in which he added to the photographs. While a lower court had said this was not just infringing, but that Prince's artwork (valued at millions of dollars) needed to be destroyed, an appeals court, thankfully, mostly overturned the decision, declaring that most of the works in question were fair use, and leaving the lower court to re-examine whether a few more were or were not transformative enough to be fair use.
As with the YouTube lawsuit, the settlement means that the final precedent set by this case is not nearly as clear-cut as it could be, but (again like the YouTube case), on the whole, the state of the case when it ended is generally useful. With YouTube, while the appeals ruling could have been more definitive concerning the DMCA's safe harbors, it was generally supportive of them and completely rejected Viacom's wacky theories. Similarly, in this case, while the appeals court didn't wholly support fair use for all of Prince's works, at the very least it did find most of them to be fair use, and (unlike the district court) recognized that immediately jumping to a claim of "infringement" and ordering the destruction of artwork that the art world clearly valued quite a lot was a dangerous step to take. While some might argue that having an eventual Supreme Court ruling in either case helps establish a clearer set of rules, given the unpredictable nature of the Supreme Court on copyright issues, the settlement in both of these cases, when the results were generally positive, may be the best thing for the state of copyright law currently.