Artist Richard Prince is Selling Other People's Instagram Photos for $100K, and It's Equal Parts Genius and Wrong
You can make pretty good money by becoming Instagram famous, but what if your selfies sold for close to $100,000? That's what's happening for Richard Prince—well, sort of. Not really. Prince has been taking other people's Instagram photos and selling them for a whoooole lot of money, and for some reason I can't quite figure out yet, people are actually buying them. To the gazillionaires out there: y'all know Instagram is free, right? Like, you can download the app yourself, find some pictures you like, and then have your butler save them on a flash drive and take them to Office Depot to blow them up for you, did you know that? Also, what's it like to have one hundred thousand dollars burning a hole in your pocket? Would you consider giving some of that pesky cash to me next time you're just itching to drop a hundred racks?
Aside from the fact that people who are buying these pictures are completely out of touch with reality, there's another reason why people are super pissed about Prince's project: he's taking other people's photos without giving them credit or any of the proceeds. I know that your knee-jerk reaction was probably, "Okay, so sue him for the cost of the painting plus damages," and to make a long story short, it's not that easy. In copyright law there's this thing called "fair use," which basically allows you to use someone's work for artistic purposes, so long as whatever you create with it adds value to the original—in other words, as long as you're building upon the existing work, rather than just outright plagiarizing.
I'm not a lawyer, but I'd venture to guess that screenshotting an image and passing it off as your own with the exception of adding one comment at the bottom (which is what Prince is doing, check the picture below) is hardly adding value to the original.
"No cure, no pay..." plus emojis? What is that even supposed to mean? This seems to me like a lawsuit just waiting to happen. But then again, if this guy can sell free selfies for $90K I'm sure he can hire a good lawyer. Also, it appears that using other people's work is kind of Prince's thing, and he's been doing it for a while now, so retribution seems way less likely. Ugh. It's kind of genius, but pretty crappy at the same time. Now I know why the phrase "evil genius" was invented. If my pictures were taken, I'm not sure whether I would be mad that I didn't at least get a cut, or incredibly flattered that somebody thought my selfies were worth that much. Probably the second one though because even if it might be legal, that's just not cool bro.
Clearly this whole dilemma shows that I do not understand modern art, at all, and somebody should explain it to me. I would also like to know if anybody out there would like to buy my latest Twitter collage, made from everybody else's tweets but mine. I will sell it to the highest bidder or for a very reasonable $85,000. Aforementioned billionaires, I'm talking to you.
Images: doedeere / Instagram