An appeals court overturned a case involving the Andy Warhol Foundation and a series of images of rock star Prince.
The issue dates back to 2017, when the Warhol Foundation sued rock photographer Lynn Goldsmith. She had informed the Foundation of a copyright issue because Warhol had used a photo of Prince she had taken in the 1980s to create a series of silkscreen prints.
The Foundation claimed that the images of Warhol Prince were fair use. Goldsmith counterattacked but saw his case dismissed in federal court.
On Friday, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to overturn the lower court. “We conclude that the district court erred in its assessment and application of the fair dealing factors and that the works in question are not considered fair dealing in law.” The ruling added: “We also conclude that [Warhol’s Prince works] are substantially similar to Goldsmith photography from a legal standpoint. “
The owners of copyright in the original works also own the rights in the derivative works. Now Goldsmith’s case against the Warhol Foundation can move forward again. .
Goldsmith photographed Prince in his studio in 1981. During the session, which a pre-celebrity prince nervously left before ending, Goldsmith took 23 photographs, 12 in black and white and 11 in color.
In 1984, the Goldsmith agency licensed one of the images to Vanity Fair, intending to use it as an “artist’s reference.” Goldsmith did not know that Warhol was the artist in question. Beyond the image commissioned by Vanity Fair, Warhol is said to have created 15 additional works, known as the Prince Series. Warhol died in 1987.
The image of Warhol was shown on Vanity Fair with credit to Goldsmith. She alleges that she only became aware of the other images after Prince’s death in 2016, when the magazine re-released the image, this time without Goldsmith credit. Instead, the Foundation was credited.
Court documents claim that the Warhol Foundation has sold or “otherwise transferred custody” of 12 of the Prince series to third parties and to the Andy Warhol Museum, and continues to license the images.