Andy Warhol’s Prince Portraits Are ‘Fair Use’ of Lynn Goldsmith Photo, Federal Judge Rules

Andy Warhol with Gerard Malanga, left, and Buddy Wirtschafter in 1965, during the filming of Girls in Prison at the Silver Factory, New York.


A 2017 lawsuit by photographer Lynn Goldsmith against the Andy Warhol Foundation has come to a close, as a federal judge in New York ruled yesterday that Warhol’s 1984 “Prince Series” works, which are based on a portrait of Prince shot by Goldsmith, do not infringe the copyright of the original portrait she shot for Newsweek in 1981.

Goldsmith’s copyright infringement claim has been dismissed, and the Warhol Foundation can submit a claim for the cost of lawyers and defending the suit.

Goldsmith, a veteran celebrity photographer, filed the suit two years ago, and last month, lawyers for both the Warhol Foundation and Goldsmith laid out their arguments before Judge John G. Koetl. The fight largely centered on whether Warhol had sufficiently transformed the original photograph so as to quality as fair use. Weighing aspects of the world like color and shading, the judge wrote that the Warhol “works are transformative, and therefore the import of their (limited) commercial nature is diluted.” (Goldsmith had argued that Warhol had improperly benefited from his use of the photograph.)

The opinion lays out several differences between Goldsmith’s portrait and Warhol’s iterations. “These alterations result in an aesthetic and character different from the original,” the judge wrote, adding, “The humanity Prince embodies in Goldsmith’s photograph is gone. Moreover, each ‘Prince Series’ work is immediately recognizable as a ‘Warhol’ rather than a photograph of Prince.”

Luke Nikas, a lawyer from the Warhol Foundation, told ARTnews this morning over email, “Warhol is one of the most important artists of the 20th century, and we’re pleased that the court recognized his invaluable contribution to the arts and upheld these works.”

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