Supreme Court rules against Warhol Foundation in landmark copyright case

23rd May 2023, 6:17 pm


Left: Lynn Goldsmith’s 1981 photo of Prince. Right: Andy Warhol’s 1984 work. Image: Supreme Court of the United States.


The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled 7-2 against the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts regarding the question of whether Warhol’s use in his own work of a photo of the musician Prince by Lynn Goldsmith constitutes fair use. The decision had been hotly anticipated in the wake of the Court’s 12th October, 2022, hearing of the case, which Goldsmith originally launched six years ago in New York State.

Goldsmith alleged that the late Pop artist illegally used her 1981 photo of the Royal Purple One in his 1984 “Prince Series,” a series of sixteen screen prints featuring the rock icon’s visage. Warhol created the series while on assignment for Vanity Fair, whose parent company, Conde Nast, licensed the photo from Goldsmith for onetime use, paying her $400. A single work from the series, Purple Fame, ran in the magazine, and the photographer was credited. According to Goldsmith, Warhol did not seek her permission to use her photo for the sixteen-part series, nor did he offer her credit or recompense. She was moved to sue when, following Prince’s untimely 2016 death, Vanity Fair ran another work from the series, Orange Prince, in a commemorative issue, paying the Warhol Foundation $10,000 for the privilege, but failing to credit or compensate Goldsmith.


Published: 23rd May 2023

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