Warhol’s Images of Prince: Social Commentary or Copyright Infringement?

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court, which has never hesitated to claim expertise in any field, will soon turn to art criticism. This fall, judges will be faced with a question that has long plagued the courts: what to do with Andy Warhol’s art.

The court said Warhol was a special case.

For example, in 2001, California Supreme Court Decision An artist named Gary Saderup said his charcoal painting of the Three Stooges could not be sold without his successor’s permission, and that the image violated state laws regarding the commercial use of celebrity likenesses.

Curiously, Judge Stanley Mosque paused, saying the case might have turned out differently had Warhol been the defendant. His silkscreen image “may be eligible for First Amendment protection,” the judge wrote.

Judge Mosk said, “Distortion and careful manipulation of context allow Warhol to convey a message that goes beyond the commercial exploitation of celebrity images, in the form of ironic social commentary on the dehumanization of celebrity itself.” He explained.

last year, Examples of computer code, Justice Stephen G. Breyer similarly invited to discuss the related question of how the fair use defense to copyright claims applies to Warhol’s images in Campbell’s soup cans and similar works. I thought. Citing the paper, Judge Breyer said, “For example, an ‘artistic painting’ could fall within the scope of fair use even if it accurately reproduces a copyrighted advertising logo and comments on consumerism. There is,” he wrote.

A new case concerns Warhol himself. On Oct. 12, a judge will consider whether he violated federal copyright law by creating a portrait of musician Prince based on the work of a prominent photographer.

In the process, they must decide whether Warhol’s altering of the photograph changed the photograph into something else. Judge John G. Keltl Warhol’s Federal District Court in Manhattan created a new By imbuing your photos with fresh meaning.

Alternatively, the Supreme Court may decide, as the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit did, that judges should compare how similar two works are. leave the interpretation of its meaning to others.

“A district judge should not assume the role of an art critic and attempt to ascertain the intent or meaning behind the work in question.” Judge Gerald E. Lynch Written for the panel. “That’s because judges are unfit to make aesthetic judgments, and because such perceptions are inherently subjective.”

The Andy Warhol Visual Arts Foundation v. Goldsmith Case, No. 21-869, resulted from a periodic magazine assignment.

In 1981, Newsweek commissioned successful rock photographer Lynn Goldsmith to photograph Prince in concert and in her studio. kept the portrait.

Three years later, around the time Prince released ‘Purple Rain’, Vanity Fair hired Warhol to create an image to accompany it. Article titled “Purple Fame”The magazine paid Ms. Goldsmith $400 to license one of her 1981 portraits as an “artist reference,” put her credit on it, and use it only in connection with one issue. Agreed.

In a series of 16 images, Warhol altered the photographs in various ways. In particular, he trimmed and colored to create what his foundation lawyers describe as a “flat, inhuman, disembodied, mask-like look.” Vanity Fair, of which he ran one.

Warhol died in 1987 and his foundation took ownership of his work, including the 16 images that came to be called the Prince Series. Works in the series sell for his six figures, which is modest by Warhol standards. Overview of the Supreme Court of the Foundation says Warhol auction sales exceeded $3 billion over the decade ending in 2014.

When Prince died in 2016, Vanity Fair’s parent company, Condé Nast, published a special issue celebrating his life. We paid the foundation $10,250 to use a different image from the Prince series for the cover.Mr. Goldsmith received no money or credit.

A lawsuit ensued, focusing on whether Warhol had altered the photograph of Mr. Goldsmith.of the supreme court said A work is transformative if it “modifies the original with a new expression, meaning, or message, and adds something new with further purpose or a different character”.

their supreme court brief, Lawyers for the foundation asked the judge to rule that whenever it adds new meaning or message, the subsequent work is protected under the doctrine of fair use.

But it causes many difficulties. Who says what a work of art means? How much new meaning do you need? And what should happen to what copyright law calls “derivative works,” such as film adaptations of novels?

of brief submitted last weekGoldsmith’s lawyers called for balancing the ‘overall investigation’ four factors It is required by copyright law to evaluate fair use. That approach raises a variety of questions, such as whether the lack of clear judicial guidance will wither artists from constructing and commenting on the work of their predecessors, a practice almost as old as art itself. .

So the judge may have no choice but to comment on the meaning of Prince’s portrait.

over a century ago, another copyright caseJudge Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said judges need to be careful where art is in question.

“It is a dangerous business for those who are trained only in the law to judge the final value of a picture illustration,” he wrote.

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