WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court agreed Monday to review a copyright dispute involving works of art by the artist Andy Warhol that were based on a photograph of the musician Prince.
A lower court had at first said the artwork created before Warhol's 1987 death was “fair use” of the photograph by Lynn Goldsmith because it had transformed the original work. But the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. The Supreme Court said it would review that ruling. The case will be argued sometime after the court begins its new term in October.
Warhol created a series of 16 artworks based on a 1981 photo of Prince taken by Goldsmith, a pioneering photographer known for portraits of famous musicians. The series came about after Vanity Fair commissioned Warhol to create an illustration of Prince in 1984 to accompany a magazine article.
The magazine paid $400 to license Goldsmith's photograph for Warhol to use as a reference to create his own work. The agreement limited the use of the photograph to the single instance in the magazine and required Vanity Fair to give credit to Goldsmith, among other things. In 2016, after Prince's death, the magazine published a tribute issue with one of Warhol's works on the cover. It did not include credit to Goldsmith. Goldsmith has said it was only then that she became aware of the Prince series.
The dispute the court agreed to hear is between the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, which now licenses Warhol's works, and Goldsmith.