Rip-Off or Fair Use? Copyright Law, Photography and the Visual Arts

When: August 6, 2015 at 5:30pm - 8:00pm EDT - This event has passed


Rip-Off or Fair Use?

Does Copyright Law Adequately Protect
Photography and the Visual Arts?

New Location:
University of Pennsylvania Law School
3501 Sansom Street, Room T-145
Philadelphia, PA 19104


Join the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and the Philadelphia Chapter of the Copyright Society of the USA in a joint event welcoming Nancy Wolff, law partner at Cowan, Debaets, Abrahams, & Sheppard, LLP, artist David Graham, and Philly Photo Arts Center’s Director Sarah Stolfa for this conversation on the newest developments in fair use and copyright law in the realm of photography. When is appropriation of someone else’s work of art allowed under copyright law, and when is it not? Is reconfiguration of a scene an infringement? Are “copyleft” business models in photography affecting the public’s perception of artist’s rights? These have become increasingly complicated issues, especially as new technologies make display, reproduction and distribution so easy.  

Cultural Alliance & Copyright Society of the USA Members $10

Non members $20

5:30pm-6pm   Registration
6pm-7pm        Program
7pm-8pm        Reception

Appropriation artist Richard Prince won a well publicized suit in 2013, giving him the right to repurpose copyrighted photographs in his work. He generated new controversy this year when he repurposed images from an independent musician’s Instagram account, selling those pieces for $90,000 at his gallery.

Was the Prince case an outlier, or an accurate representation of the current state of the “fair use” doctrine? If it is accurate, does our current definition of fair use correctly balance the rights of the original creators of the source material as against the freedom of artists who repurpose and respond to commercial, digital and other media sources in contemporary society?

And what about when art is not appropriated but rather “inspires” a new work, as when a new photographer reconstructs a scene already shot by another artist? Is the underlying scene protectable by copyright?

Finally, does artists’ free distribution of their work impact their rights or the public’s perception of their rights? What has inspired the “copyleft” movement in photography, and how does technology play into new distribution models?

Nancy Wolff will present the legal perspective on these questions and moderate a conversation with the panel of local artists and arts professionals and the audience.

Nancy E. Wolff, a partner at Cowan, Debaets, Abrahams, & Sheppard, LLP, is an expert in copyright, trademark and digital media law. She is also the Vice President of the Copyright Society of the U.S.A. The Copyright Society convenes business people, lawyers in private practice and in-house, law professors and others who share a common interest in copyright and related intellectual property rights.

David Graham is an American artist photographer and professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Embracing popular forms of American photography (the snapshot, family portrait, and vacation photo), David Graham explores contemporary culture through the idiosyncratic nature of the American landscape. His work is in many collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the International Center of Photography, New York City.

Sarah Stolfa is the founder and Executive Director of the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center. An American contemporary artist, photographer, and musician, Sarah has broad experience in photography, education, curatorial work and digital lab creation and management. The Philadelphia Photo Arts Center is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization devoted to the study, practice, and appreciation of photography in the Philadelphia region.

Enter Penn Law School at 3501 Sansom Street. Take the corridor off the main lobby to the left and follow around to a smaller lobby with a large freestanding clock.  T-145 is across that second lobby on the left hand side.  

Parking: There is street parking on Chestnut, Walnut and Sansom. The closest covered lots are between Market and Chestnut on 34th (enter from the 34th street side). Both the Drexel lot (enter from a small side street named Ludlow) and the Penn lots (right off of 34th street) have lower rates after 4 pm. 

Subway: There is a Market/Frankford line stop at Market and 34th street.  There is also a trolley stop at Market and 33rd.

Train: 30th street station is a 10-15 minute walk from Penn Law.  Exit on the 31st street side onto Market Street, and walk down to 34th.  Make a left on 34th and then a right onto Sansom and follow down the block to the Penn Law main entrance.

For questions about this event please contact Tracy Buchanan at

This event has passed