Case NameBlanch v. Koons
Citation: 467 F.3d 244 (2d Cir. 2006)
TopicCopyright & Fair Use

Jeff Koons, a prominent visual artist, made a collage using various photographs for an exhibit commissioned by the Guggenheim. This collage included a copyrighted photograph taken by fashion photographer Andrea Blanch. Blanch’s photograph appeared in the fashion magazine Allure, and depicts a woman’s legs reclining on a man’s lap in an airplane cabin. Koons cropped and re-oriented the photo, before including it in a painted collage among other pairs of women’s legs. The district court granted Koons summary judgment, holding that the use of Blanch’s photograph in his collage constituted fair use, and not copyright infringement. Using a four-part test, the court held:

(1)  the purpose and character of Koons’ use was "transformative"

(2)   Blanch’s copyrighted work was "banal" rather than creative

(3)   Blanch’s photograph is of limited originality

(4)  Blanch’s photograph could not have captured the market occupied by Koons’ work

The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment. Koons’ work here can be distinguished from the pieces at issue in Rogers v. Koons, and UFS v. Koons, because Koons’ collage uses Blanch’s photograph to create a new work of art with a distinct meaning, message and character – rather than merely offering a complete reproduction. The Court of Appeals also characterized the use of Blanch’s photography as reasonable, given that the purpose of Koons’ collage was to offer a critique of media and advertising culture.

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