Rogers v. Koons

Rogers v. Koons, 960 F.2d 301.

Facts: Professional photographer Art Rogers took a black and white photo of a man and women with an arm full of puppies for use of greeting cards and other merchandise. Internationally renowned artist Jeff Koons found the photograph and created a sculpture to showcase the banality of everyday objects called String of Puppies. Koons aims to exaggerate small details of the copyrighted image, changing the puppies to blue and distorting the image of the couple holding the animals. Koons sold multiple copies for hundreds of thousands of dollars. After Rogers sued for copyright infringement, Koons claimed fair use by parody.

Procedural History: The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York held that sculptor infringed photographer's copyright, issued permanent injunction and turnover order.

Issue: Whether Koons copied Rogers image, and whether the use is considered fair use by parody?

Holding: The Court of Appeals held that: (1) photographer established valid ownership of copyright in original work of art; (2) evidence supported determination that sculptor copied photographer's protected work without authorization; (3) sculptor's unauthorized use of photograph did not fall within fair use doctrine and that (4) remand was necessary to determine amount of damages.

Discussion: This case shows the standard the court will look at when determining an artist's rights in using another artist's work for inspiration. By exaggerating the colors and appearance of another picture, the artist does not distance himself enough from the original work to be constituted as fair use. The image of blue puppies and a distorted couple was too nightmarish to be considered in the "fun" use of parody. Additionally, the copy was not a critique of the original, it was merely distorting it to distort it.

This case slapped down the gradual encroachment of artist onto copyrighted and trademarked use since the sixties. This was found as a landmark case of copyright law vs. art, and here, copyright law won.
Portions © 2006-2019 by Michael Risch, Some Rights Reserved | Copyright Notice| Legal Disclaimer