Last month we learned that Ryan McGinley had become the latest art star to become embroiled in a copyright lawsuit when fellow New York-based, Whitney-exhibited photographer Janine Gordon filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against McGinley for, she claimed, stealing her imagery in a series of art photos and a commercial series he shot for Levi's, whom she also sued. But a federal judge in Manhattan was having none of it, and dismissed the suit on Thursday.
Federal Judge Richard J. Sullivan agreed, ArtsBeat reports, with McGinley's claim that his and Gordon's work did not "look alike in the slightest."
In the dismissal decision issued last week (PDF), Judge Sullivan had some strong words for Gordon and her lawyers.
Plaintiff's apparent theory of infringement would assert copyright interests in virtually any figure with outstretched arms, any interracial kiss, or any nude female torso. Such a conception of copyright law has no basis in statute, case law, or common sense, and its application would serve to undermine rather than promote the most basic forms of artistic expression. One might have hoped that Plaintiff - an artist - would have understood as much, or that her attorneys, presumably familiar with the basic tenets of copyright and intellectual property law, would have recognized the futility of this
action before embarking on a long, costly, and ultimately wasteful course of litigation in a court of law. In any event, for the reasons set forth above, and as should have been obvious from the outset, the Court grants the motion to dismiss Plaintiff's copyright infringement claim.
The fact that McGinley’s works may be ultimately derivative and unoriginal in an artistic sense—something which the Court has neither the expertise nor inclination to pronounce upon—is beside the point.
This essentially follows the precedent set by Jeff Koons's balloon dog fiasco, in which the artist briefly sought the rights to basically any image of a balloon dog in any form. In this case, McGinley and Gordon will both be able to continue photographing figures with outstretched arms, interracial kisses and nude female torsos, so we all win!