Richard Prince, Author of The Catcher in the Rye: Transforming Fair Use Analysis

Brockenbrough A. Lamb *

One day in the fall of 2011, a man unrolled a blanket on a sidewalk by Central Park, laid out multiple copies of a book, and started selling them for forty dollars apiece.[1] The man was the notorious appropriation artist Richard Prince, and the books for sale were near-duplicates of an early edition of The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.[2] They were “near-duplicates” for one very obvious reason: on the dustcover, title page, and copyright page, Prince’s name appeared in place of Salinger’s.[3] As it turns out, these books were part of Prince’s latest art project—500 meticulously constructed copies of The Catcher in the Rye using thick, high quality paper meant to mimic the 1951 original, the same cover art as the original, and most astonishingly, the same text as the original (in its entirety).[4]

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* J.D. Candidate, 2016, University of Richmond School of Law. B.A., 2000, Wake Forest University. I would like thank the authors Roland Barthes, Jorge Luis Borges, J.D. Salinger, and Richard Prince for their inestimable contributions to culture. I would also like to thank the staff and editors of the University of Richmond Law Review for their work on this comment. Finally, I am especially thankful for the support and encouragement of three loved ones, who happen to be attorneys: my wife, Elizabeth Anne Ridler Lamb; my father, Robert Henley Lamb; and my sister Hampton Breckinridge Lamb.

        [1].    See Kenneth Goldsmith, Richard Prince’s Latest Act of Appropriation: The Catcher in the Rye, Poetry Found. (Apr. 19, 2012), 2012/04/richard-princes-latest-act-of-appropriation-the-catcher-in-the-rye/.

        [2].    Several articles have referred to the Richard Prince versions as duplicates of the first edition (and not only an early edition) of The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. See, e.g., id.; Thomas Hawk, Richard Prince on Appropriating “The Catcher in the Rye”, Thomas Hawk’s Digital Connection (June 17, 2013, 12:59 PM), http://thomashawk. com/2013/06/richard-prince-on-appropriating-the-catcher-in-the-rye.html. For a variety of bibliographic reasons this is incorrect. For instance, true first editions of The Catcher in the Rye had a photograph of J.D. Salinger on the rear panel of the dust jacket. First Edition Criteria and Points to Identify The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger,, (last visited Apr. 3, 2015). In later printings this feature was dropped. Michael Lieberman, Richard Prince: Book Pirate?, Book Patrol (Apr. 23, 2012), The Prince copies have a blank rear panel. See id. (noting that Prince’s version used the second issue dust jacket which lacks J.D. Salinger’s photo).

        [3].    Goldsmith, supra note 1.

        [4].    See Hawk, supra note 2.