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Analysis: 'Landmark' Ruling Says Commentary Not Needed For Fair Use Defense

Publication Date: 
April 26, 2013
Thomson Reuters News & Insight
Erin Geiger Smith

Julie Ahrens, director of Copyright and Fair Use at the Center for Internet and Society, spoke with Reuters' Erin Geiger Smith about the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision regarding fair use and commentary in appropriations art and how this decision is a 'landmark' for appropriations art and what can be done with original and existing materials.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling in a closely watched copyright case involving appropriation of artwork could have wide significance and has helped clarify how a defendant can prove fair use.

The ruling on Thursday in Cariou v. Prince was highly anticipated by intellectual property practitioners. The court concluded that an artist who appropriated another's work without permission need not have commented on the original work to succeed on a fair use defense to copyright infringement claims.

"It's likely a landmark decision on the issue of appropriation art and what you can do with the existing work," said Julie Ahrens, of the Stanford Law Center for Internet and Society.

Ahrens had submitted an amicus brief on behalf of The Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts that supported the defendant, prominent appropriation artist Richard Prince.