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Appropriation Art

Creating by Using

Authored by: John Koegel

The Routledge Companion to Copyright and Creativity in the 21st Century

Print publication date:  November  2020
Online publication date:  November  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138999251
eBook ISBN: 9781315658445
Adobe ISBN:


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Appropriation art, which depicts a preexisting image or object, is an evolving form of realism. In its purest form, appropriation art directly replicates a source work. As appropriation art has increased in the twenty-first century, so too has lawsuits and claims from the owners of source material against major appropriation artists such as Jeff Koons, Richard Prince, and Andy Warhol. These artists defend their work as fair use because their work fulfills the purpose of copyright law—promoting the creation and publication of new work for public benefit, rather than rewarding authors. The appropriation art cases raise the question about whether transformativeness should be the determinative factor in deciding fair use. This essay argues that the fundamental purpose or basis for copyright is to encourage distribution of creative activity to the public for the benefit of the public. Copyright should benefit the public through the creation of works and not be like a patent that bars any use of the original work. Copyright law should support appropriation art because these works express a different artistic expression for a distinctly difference audience.

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