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Supreme Court rules against Warhol Foundation in copyright case

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The Supreme Court of the United States ruled today, May 18, that the late pop artist Andy Warhol infringed copyright of photographer Lynn Goldsmith when he used his original black and white portrait of the late singer Prince to create a series of 16 serigraphs. In a seven-to-two vote, the court rejected the Andy Warhol Foundation’s claim that the serigraphs were “transformative” enough to warrant fair use. THE long time affair has been closely watched by the arts community, as the decision sets a precedent for copyright protections and fair use limitations.

“I am thrilled with today’s decision and grateful to the Supreme Court for hearing our side of the story,” Goldsmith said. Hyperallergic in a report. “This is a great day for photographers and other artists who make a living by licensing their art. This legal battle has been a long road with great emotional and financial impact on me and my family. I felt I had to risk everything. what we had financially to fight in court for the protection of my rights and those of all artists against those who would infringe.

“I hope this SCOTUS decision is a lesson that people should not hesitate to legally defend their rights when organizations, foundations or individuals with greater financial resources intimidate them with legal costs,” Goldsmith added. .

The court case revolved around one image in particular from Warhol’s Prince series, “Orange Prince.” In 1984, vanity lounge originally paid $400 to Goldsmith to license her portrayal of Prince as a “reference artist” for Warhol, who was commissioned to create an image to accompany an article covering the singer’s musical rise. As part of the arrangement, vanity lounge had agreed to credit Goldsmith and guaranteed that the license to use his photograph would apply only once.

But in 2016, vanity lounge paid $10,250 to the Warhol Foundation to use another serigraph from Warhol’s series to feature in a special issue commemorating the musician’s legacy after his death. This time, Goldsmith received no credit or payment. In 2017, she filed a lawsuit against the foundation, which refused to compensate her for the second cover image.

“Goldsmith’s original works, like those of other photographers, are entitled to copyright protection, even against famous artists,” Judge Sonia Sotomayor wrote in the majority opinion.

Sotomayor went on to explain that fair use of copyrighted material holds if “the use is sufficiently distinct in purpose and character from the original.” In that case, the court found that the original photo of Goldsmith and “Orange Prince” “essentially share the same commercial purpose” as they were used as illustrations for magazine articles.

In a strongly worded dissenting opinion, Justice Elena Kagan and Chief Justice John Roberts said the majority decision will “stifle creativity of all kinds”, “thwart the expression of new ideas and the acquisition of new knowledge and “will make our world poorer”. ”

“Warhol is a dominant figure in modern art not in spite of but because of his use of source materials,” Kagan wrote. “If Warhol doesn’t get credit for the transformative copy, who will? And when artists less famous than Warhol cannot benefit from fair use, it will matter even more.

Joel Wachs, President of the Andy Warhol Foundation, said Hyperallergic in a statement that the foundation “respectfully disagrees” with the court’s decision.

“At the same time, we welcome the Court’s clarification that its decision is limited to this license only and does not call into question the legality of Andy Warhol’s creation of the Prince series in 1984,” Wachs said. “Going forward, we will continue to uphold the rights of artists to create transformative works under copyright law and the First Amendment.”

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