Appeals court rules against Andy Warhol in copyright case

Appeals court rules against Andy Warhol in copyright case
Andy Warhol (C) stands in front of a serigraph of Princess Grace of Monaco to benefit the Institute of Contemporary Art here in Philadelphia on June 1, 1984. A federal appeals court ruled Friday that Warhol's series of artworks of Prince based on a Lynn Goldsmith painting violated copyright. File Photo by George Bilyk/UPI | License Photo

March 26 (UPI) -- A New York-based federal appeals court ruled Friday that pop artist Andy Warhol's 1984 paintings of Prince based on photographs by Lynn Goldsmith didn't go far enough to transform the original portrait.

The 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals sided with Goldsmith in her lawsuit, which argued that Warhol's series of 16 Prince artworks violated her copyright. The decision overturned a U.S. District Court decision in the case.


The series includes 12 silkscreen paintings, two pencil drawings and two screen prints.

"Crucially, the Prince series retains the essential elements of the Goldsmith photograph without significantly adding to or altering those elements," the ruling, written by Judge Gerard Lynch, said.

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The appellate court remanded the case back to the lower court.

Goldsmith took the photograph of the late musician Prince in 1981 and licensed it to Vanity Fair to be used as an artist reference. According to the court ruling, the magazine commissioned Warhol to create an image based on the photograph without Goldsmith's knowledge.


"Warhol did not stop with the image that Vanity Fair had commissioned him to create, but created an additional 15 works, which together became known as the Prince series," the court documents said.

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Goldsmith said she first became aware of the additional artworks after Prince's death in 2016, and notified the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, which manages the late pop artist's estate, of the alleged copyright infringement. The foundation sued for a declaratory judgment that the artworks didn't violate copyright, and Goldsmith countersued.

Goldsmith said she was "grateful" for the court's ruling in a statement she posted to Instagram.

"Four years ago, the Andy Warhol Foundation sued me to obtain a ruling that it could use my photograph without asking my permission or paying me anything for my work," she wrote.

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"I fought this suit to protect not only my own rights, but the rights of all photographers and visual artists to make a living by licensing their creative work -- and also to decide when, how, and even whether to exploit their creative works or license others to do so."

Luke Nikas, a lawyer for the Andy Warhol Foundation, said the organization plans to appeal Friday's ruling.


"Over 50 years of established art history and popular consensus confirms that Andy Warhol is one of the most transformative artists of the 20th Century," he said in an email to UPI.

"While the Warhol Foundation strongly disagrees with the Second Circuit's ruling, it does not change this fact, nor does it change the impact of Andy Warhol's work on history. The Foundation will continue to promote the ideals of artistic creativity and freedom of expression that are embodied in Warhol's work, and will challenge the Second Circuit's decision to ensure that these ideals remain protected."

Warhol is well-known for his series of artworks repeating images of celebrities over and over in various colors, including Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. He died in 1987 from a heart condition after undergoing surgery.

In addition to being a celebrity photographer, Goldsmith is a musician and filmmaker whose photographs have appeared on dozens of album covers.

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"Triple Elvis." Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

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