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We configure?

Richard Prince, an artist, downloaded pictures from peoples’ Instagram accounts, blew them up and printed them on canvas. He called it art and sold them off for up to $100K. The account owners were not asked in advance or informed afterward. He didn’t pay a thin dime to any of them.

Some analyzed it as an artistic endevour. Others were more critical and accuse Prince of naked greed.

At this point in history, the parts of ourselves we curate for sharing online, are an integrated part of our lives. The real world/virtual world dichotomy becomes less and less relevant as more of us capture large swaths of our lives and share them in text, pictures, video.

So what of Prince’s use of stranger’s Instagram pictures? Was it ethical? Was it theft? Should he have gotten permission? Can the subjects sue for a portion of the proceeds? If you are in a public place, such as a park, someone can take your picture because you have no expectation of privacy in a public place. But what about the Internet? Is it a public place? Are social network sites like modern day Agoras? If they are who owns your pictures and words?

Something to think about.

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