copyright, appropriation, transformation, art


The recent decision in Cariou v. Prince has reinvigorated a pressing issue for the contemporary movement of appropriation art: how can art which is defined by its taking from other artworks hope to survive in the world of copyright? In this article, I consider the legal history leading to the Cariou case, including a series of suits brought against appropriation artist Jeff Koons, as well as strategies proposed by several theorists for accommodating appropriation art within the law. Unfortunately, largely due to vagaries of the law and the misunderstood nature of appropriation art, the matter remains unresolved. I argue that, by investing borrowed material with new ideas, appropriation artists create new expressions and so transform their original sources. Being in line with the Constitutional mandate of copyright law, I suggest that such works of appropriation art be treated as presumptively fair uses.