Supreme Court Rules Against Andy Warhol Foundation in Copyright Case

Andy Warhol Foundation Loses in Supreme Court Copyright Case

/ 09:21 AM May 22, 2023

In a dispute that shook the art world, the Andy Warhol Foundation lost on a critical issue around copyright law. A 7-2 ruling by the US Supreme Court ruled that Andy Warhol infringed on photographer Lynn Goldsmith’s copyright.

The case revolved around a set of Goldsmith-inspired silk screen images of the iconic singer Prince in 1981.

The high-profile lawsuit depended on an important question. Did Warhol’s images of Prince transform Goldsmith’s photo enough to prevent copyright infringement issues and thus fall under “fair use”?

This term, common in copyright legalities, allows the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in particular incidents. Some of these include educational or non-commercial scenarios.

How It All Started: The Prince Photograph and the Andy Warhol Foundation

Goldsmith still holds the copyright to the Prince photograph in question. The Andy Warhol Foundation began its legal actions for copyright infringement when it gave a license to Warhol’s work, the Orange Prince.This Goldsmith-inspired photograph of the pop musician was licensed to Condé Nast in 2016 for its Vanity Fair publication.

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Goldsmith licensed Vanity Fair to utilize her Prince image in 1984. After this, the magazine asked Warhol, who is associated with the Andy Warhol Foundation, to create a silkscreen art based on Goldsmith’s image.

However, this usage only extends to a one-time use. Vanity Fair also credited Goldsmith and paid her $400 for her “source photograph.”

Justice Sotomayor highlighted her opinion that Goldsmith’s original arts, same with those of other photographers, deserve copyright security. It should have this protection even against high-profile entities like Andy Warhol Foundation.

The Supreme Court Reverses Previous Ruling

A federal district court decision in favor of the Andy Warhol Foundation, ruling that Warhol’s photograph is transformative enough to impose fair use protection. However, the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision.

Justice Elena Kagan, as Chief Justice John Roberts supported, voiced concerns about the ruling’s possibilities of hindering the production of new music, art, and literature and suppressing creativity.

Joel Wachs, president of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, announced the foundation’s commitment to still advocate for the rights of artists to make transformative arts under the Copyright Act and the First Amendment.

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Despite Andy Warhol Foundation’s response, legal experts who spoke in this story agreed with the Supreme Court’s ruling. It will surely have a major impact on the interpretation of “fair use” in copyright law, especially regarding the creation of inspired works.

This decision could reformulate the connection between intellectual property rights and creativity. As others suggest, it could open the floodgates for lots of copyright infringement lawsuits against artists.

Overall, the effect of this ruling on creativity, copyright legalities, and the future of institutions is still uncertain. We’ll be watching closely as the issue unfolds, so stay tuned here for updates.

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TAGS: art, copyright infringement, Trending
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