Supreme Court Rules Against Andy Warhol in Prince Photo Copyright Case

supreme court ruled on thursday Andy Warhol did not have the right to paint portraits of famed photographer Prince as the image of the musician whose property had licensed it to the magazine, limiting the scope of the photograph. defense of fair use Copyright infringement in the field of visual arts.

The vote was 7 to 2. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, for the majority, ruled that the photographer’s “original work, like that of any other photographer, is entitled to copyright protection, even to famous artists.” ‘ said.

She focused on the fact that Warhol and the photographer Lynn Goldsmith, whose work he adapted, were both in the commercial business of licensing Prince’s images to magazines.

“Otherwise, a broad range of commercial copies of photographs used for substantially the same purposes as the originals may be permitted,” Sotomayor wrote. “As long as the user somehow portrays the subject of the photograph in a different way, they can make minor changes to the original, sell it to outlets with a story about the subject, and claim transformative use.”

Dissenting, Justice Elena Kagan, joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., wrote that the decision “will stifle creativity of all kinds.”

“It will hinder new art, music and literature,” she wrote. “It will hinder the expression of new ideas and the acquisition of new knowledge. It will make our world even poorer.”

The duel between the two often allied liberal judges was unusually sharp.

Justice Sotomayor wrote that Justice Kagan’s opinion consisted of “a series of falsehoods and exaggerations from the first sentence of the dissent to the last.”

Justice Cagan replied that Justice Sotomayor failed to appreciate Warhol’s art at all.

“The majority don’t get it,” wrote Judge Kagan. “And I mean it literally. Today’s opinion is that there is little valuable evidence that the majority have actually seen these images, much less that they reflect expert views on their aesthetics and meaning.” It is not.”

The decision included more than a dozen reproductions of works by Warhol and others, most of which were in color.

The portrait of Prince at issue in the lawsuit was taken in 1981 by successful rock photographer Lynne Goldsmith for Newsweek.

In 1984, around the time Prince released Purple Rain, Vanity Fair hired Warhol to create an accompanying piece. Article titled “Purple Fame”The magazine paid Ms. Goldsmith $400 to license the portrait as an “artist reference,” giving her credit and agreeing to use it only in connection with a single issue.

In a series of 16 images, Warhol altered the photographs in various ways, most notably what Foundation lawyers describe as a “flat, impersonal, insubstantial, mask-like appearance”. I cropped and colored the photo to create a Vanity Fair too, of which he ran one.

Warhol died in 1987 and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts assumed ownership of his work. When Prince died in 2016, Vanity Fair’s parent company, Condé Nast, published a special issue celebrating his life. The foundation paid $10,250 to use a different image from the series for the cover. Goldsmith received neither money nor credit.

Lawsuits followed, many of which focused on whether Warhol altered Goldsmith’s photo.of The Supreme Court said A work is transformative if it “adds something new with a further purpose or a different character, altering the original work with new expressions, meanings and messages”.

Judge Kagan rejected the notion that these photographs and Warhol’s images were fungible.

“Suppose you’re the editor of Vanity Fair or Condé Nast and you’re running an article about Prince,” she wrote. “Of course we need some kind of picture. The employee comes up with two choices, a picture of Goldsmith and a portrait of Warhol. You say you don’t really care? The employee is free to toss a coin.” Can you? In the majority view, you do.”

She added: “All I can say is that it’s a good thing that the majority aren’t in the magazine industry. Of course they care!”

Justice Kagan wrote that the majority of the analyzes were simplistic and logical.

“All of Warhol’s artistry and social commentary is denied by one thing: Warhol licensed his portraits to magazines, and Goldsmith occasionally licensed her photographs to magazines. is,” she wrote. That is the essence of the majority opinion. ”

Andy Warhol Visual Arts Foundation v. Goldsmith, No. 21-869, concerns the limitations of the fair use defense, which normally permits illegal copying when activities such as criticism and news reporting are involved. there were.

The lower courts were divided as to whether Warhol’s alteration of the photograph turned it into something else. Judge John G. Keltl A federal district court in Manhattan ruled that Warhol: created something new By imbuing your photos with new meaning.

But a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said judges should compare how similar the two works are. leave the interpretation of its meaning to others.

“The district judge should not assume the role of an art critic, nor should he attempt to ascertain the intent or meaning behind the work in question.” Judge Gerald E. Lynch written on the panel. “It’s both true because judges are usually ill-equipped to make aesthetic judgments, and because such perceptions are inherently subjective.”

Judge Sotomayor noted that a key factor in the fair use analysis, “the purpose and nature of the use, such as whether such use is of a commercial nature or for non-commercial educational purposes,” favors Ms. Goldsmith. I wrote that it became an important element.

Judge Sotomayor wrote that “Warhol himself paid for the license of the photograph for part of the artistic rendition.” “Photographers like Goldsmith make their living from such licenses to photographs and their derivatives. They provide an economic incentive to create original work, which is the goal of copyright. is.”

Other Warhol works, such as Warhol’s images of Campbell’s soup cans, are another matter, she wrote.

“The purpose of Campbell’s logo is to promote soup. Warhol’s canvases do not share that purpose,” wrote Judge Sotomayor. “Rather, the Soup Can series uses Campbell’s work as an artistic commentary on consumerism.”

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