It took the Supreme Court a year to rule on whether or not Andy Warhol had the right to make a work based on a photograph of Prince, without the photographer’s permission. And the result of this important trial regarding the limits of copyright has been negative for the deceased artist: he had no right and it was a violation of the intellectual property of the photographer.
The future of the great Internet Archive digital library, in check due to the legal offensive of the large publishers
According to the New York Times, the vote was 7 to 2. The ruling says that “the photographer’s original works, like those of other photographers, are entitled to copyright protection, including against famous artists.” And this is the case of Lynn Goldsmith, the photographer who filed the lawsuit.
When Prince released his landmark album Purple Rain, Warhol was commissioned by Vanity Fair magazine to accompany an article titled Purple Fame. The magazine paid the photographer $400 so that Warhol could base it on a photograph he had taken of the Minneapolis singer, but on the condition that it be used on a single occasion and accompany the aforementioned article.
But it didn’t happen that way, instead Warhol created a series of 16 images where he altered the photograph in certain ways, cutting it out and coloring it.
But images of Warhol based on Prince’s photograph of Goldsmith continued to earn new profits after Warhol died in 1987. Vanity Fair’s parent company, Condé Nast, paid the copyright foundation $10,250 to use a different image. of the series for the cover. Goldsmith received neither money nor credit for that image.
The litigation focused on two aspects. The first, if Warhol had made a “fair use” of the image, an exceptionality in US legislation that allows opening, up to certain limits, the intellectual property of a work. Examples of this use are academic, informative or the right to quote. The judges had to decide whether creating a work derived from another, at least on the terms Warhol did, was fair use. The other, and derived from the first, was whether or not Warhol had transformed, and to what extent, Goldsmith’s photography to create a mere copy or something new.
One of the judges who voted not to convict Warhol declared that the sentence “will stifle creativity of all kinds” and “prevent new art, music and literature.” “It will frustrate the expression of new ideas and the achievement of new knowledge. It will make our world poorer,” she wrote.