Here is a very encouraging case from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Blanch v. Koons.
Visual artist Jeff Koons is no stranger to the courts. Specializing in what some call appropriation art, he borrows pop-culture images in order to comment on the culture that generates and consumes them. This has gotten him sued more than once. And he has lost more than once.
This time, he won. Although he admitted to scanning part of a photograph that appeared in Allure magazine and using it in his collage, Niagara, he did so precisely because it was a fashion magazine photograph -- and thus the subject and target of his commentary. The Court held that this was fair use largely because of the transformative nature of the work.
This case vindicates our right to borrow, use and transform the culture that surrounds us as an element of our own expression. This example happens to concern borrowing from visual art. But ask yourself this: if we can "sample" a fashion photograph in order to create something new and transformative, shouldn't we able to do likewise in other mediums? Music, for instance?
To view Niagara and the photograph used in it, click here.