Richard Prince has been sued yet again for copyright infringement. After being named in two recent copyright suits, the artist has been hit with another lawsuit over his “appropriation art,” this time over his allegedly unauthorized use of copyrighted images of 1970s rocker Sid Vicious. In this lawsuit, which was filed this week in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Los Angeles-based photographer, Dennis Morris, claims that Prince made use of four of his photographs of the 1970s punk rock band the Sex Pistols without the authorization to do so.
In particular, Morris alleges that Prince used his photographs of the musician on Instagram, as well as in an untitled collage that includes photographs of other notable faces. Prince also reportedly used several other photographs of the Sex Pistols in artwork included in his exhibit: “Richard Prince: Covering Pollack.” He further claims that Prince and the Gagosian Gallery (Prince's art dealer) are liable for the “diversion of trade, loss of income and profits, and a dilution of the value of [Morris’s] rights.” The complaint also alleges that Prince used Instagram to promote the work for sale and includes a screenshot of a post [pictured above], which has since been deleted, on Prince’s Instagram account featuring one of Morris’s best known photos of Vicious.
As a result, Morris is seeking unspecified damages and any profits the artist and Gagosian Gallery made from Prince’s alleged use of the photographs in question.
This certainly is not Prince or Gagosian's first time in court on copyright infringement grounds. Earlier this year, both parties were sued in connection with Prince's “New Portraits” show, which consisted of photos of others’ Instagram postings and which was held at Larry Gagosian’s New York gallery in September and October 2014. The plaintiff, a Los Angeles-based photographer named Donald Graham, filed suit against Prince, the Gagosian Gallery and Larry Gagosian in the Southern District of New York court. Graham, “a visual artist engaged in fine art and commercial photography whose artwork has been exhibited in museums and shown at fine art galleries,” alleges that the defendants infringed the copyright in his photo, Rastafarian Smoking a Joint, “a somber black and white portrait capturing a Rastafarian man in the act of lighting a marijuana cigarette.”
Before that, Prince was sued by photographer Patrick Cariou, who alleged direct and indirect copyright infringement primarily related to an exhibition of Prince’s works entitled ‘Canal Zone’ held at a gallery operated by Gagosian Gallery.” That lawsuit was ultimately settled out of court but not before a New York district court found infringement as a matter of law for all thirty Prince Canal Zone works. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed as to twenty-five of the Prince Canal Works (finding such works to be permissible fair use).