Supreme Court rules against Andy Warhol in copyright case with implications for artists

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Washington – with potentially sweeping decisions Implications for Artistic Creation, Supreme Court on Thursday against Andy Warhol's foundation a Controversy rages over whether late pop artist violated copyright law When he based a silkscreen on a photographer's image of musician Rajkumar.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the decision for a 7-2 majority that did not break with the traditional divide between conservatives and liberals.

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Warhol's foundation insisted that Prince Silkscreen falls under the fair use doctrine, which allows the reproduction of copyrighted material without permission under certain circumstances, such as for criticism. The artwork, the Foundation said, qualified because it was transformative – completely changing the message conveyed by the original photograph.

But Lynn Goldsmith, the rock ‘n' roll photographer who filed suit, countered that such a standard would make copyright “utterly impractical”, as it would ask judges to assess the meaning of a derivative artwork and whether it Is transformative enough not to infringe on prior work.

“The original works of Lynn Goldsmith, like those of other photographers, are entitled to copyright protection even against well-known artists,” Sotomayor wrote for the majority.

“To hold otherwise would potentially be authorizing a series of commercial copying of photographs, to be used for purposes that are fundamentally identical,” she said.

Sotomayor was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and Ketanji Brown Jackson. Justice Elena Kagan wrote a dissent, in which Chief Justice John Roberts joined. The unusual vote count underscored the fact that copyright cases are often not decided along traditional ideological lines, but sometimes involve broader questions about the contribution of the .

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Kagan wrote that he is concerned about the ramifications of the court's decision.

“You've probably heard of Andy Warhol; you've probably seen his art. You know that he re-framed and reformulated – in a word, transformed – images previously created by others,” she wrote. “Campbell's Soup Cans and Brillo Boxes.”

“That's how Warhol earned his special place in every college's Art History 101,” she said. “So it may come as a surprise that the majority describe Prince silkscreen as a ‘slight alteration' of Lynn Goldsmith's photograph.”

Experts on both sides of the case predicted that the court's decision could change how courts interpret and apply copyright law. The result could have ramifications for small businesses as far as the film industry, which filed a brief in the case. Goldsmith stated that the Foundation's test would also have nullified the copyright, allowing someone to reproduce a popular film with a slightly altered ending and claim that it conveys a new meaning and There was no violation.

is the case Andy Warhol Foundation For the visual arts vs. Goldsmiths.

The New York-based US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit sided with Goldsmith in 2021. Putting the two images of the prince side by side, the appeals court ruled that Warhol's piece was not transformative because it was derived from and maintained “recognizably”. Essential Elements of Goldsmith's Picture”. Lawyers for the foundation say the test misreads Supreme Court precedent and would make it difficult for artists to ever refer to earlier works.

The is included in a brief filed on behalf of photographer Lynn Goldsmith in the Supreme Court for a copyright case between Goldsmith and the Andy Warhol Foundation.

The Supreme Court weighed in on the issue in a landmark 1994's Judgment featuring 2 live crew Roy Orbison's rendition of “Oh, Pretty Woman”. A unanimous court sided with the hip-hop group, placing heavy emphasis on the idea that the parody was “transformative” and therefore fair use under copyright law.

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Last year, in another high-profile copyright case, a 6-2 majority ruled Code routines Google recycled from Oracle The Java programming language used to create its Android operating system did not infringe Oracle's copyrights because they were a fair use.

During nearly two hours of lively debate, during which the judges traded a litany of fictional and pop culture references, members of both the conservative and liberal wings seemed to grapple with how the courts should figure out whether a piece of art Whether or not the secondary work qualifies as “transformative”. sufficient to defeat the claim of infringement.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Supreme Court rules against Andy Warhol Foundation in copyright case