It is a nasty secret in the art world. Well, not so much secret as something to which collectors and galleries often turn a blind eye. What is this nasty little secret? That photographers don't count when it comes to copyright protection. People like Richard Prince and Shepard Fairey make huge sums of money by ripping off the works of photographers. Some of the resulting creations are complex, most look like poor tracings or decoupage projects from an elementary school class. Yet, these works sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars and sometimes millions. The copiers (I refuse to call them artists because the are not) and galleries representing these copiers make statements like, "Prince has redefined the concepts of authorship, ownership, and aura." to defend their blatant appropriation of works protected by copyright laws.
In fact, sometimes it seems that the collectors of this type of work prefer the controversy. Works by Richard Prince that were under lawsuit started selling for nearly a million pounds each. That lawsuit led to an order for Prince and the gallery that represented him to destroy all works in their possession and inform those who had already bought pieces that they could not be exhibited legally.
When the art world embraces this kind of blatant theft they not only damage the potential livelihood of every working photographer, they cheapen every other art form. Using the standards this subset of the art world lives by would lead to a horrific influx of cheaply done knockoffs. Photocopy the Mona Lisa and let your dog walk across the paper with paint on his paws. Doing that would equal new art by the rules of this group of copiers. The damage done to the world of art will continue to escalate until this subset of the art world stops accepting copied and scribbled on works as new pieces worth more than the original.