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Copyright dispute between Warhol's estate and Lynn Goldsmith


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The U.S. Supreme Court is set to ponder in a case centering on work by Andy Warhol a question as philosophical as it is legal: when a work is inspired by other material, what is the line between art and copyright theft?


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It looks like a copyright violation to me. I would never use someone else’s image like this. I worked for a copyright attorney for awhile and these uses would be pursued for copyright violation for sure.

Outcome? Who knows these days.

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7 minutes ago, Rebecca Ore said:

The iconic Che Guevera photo by Alberto Korda has been turned into tee shirts, pendants, and motorcycle decals without legal actions.  The only time Korda sued was when the image was used to sell vodka.

I don’t know the law there, but here, once you know of a violation of your work and do nothing, I believe you’ve lost your rights to sue forevermore. Well, maybe not to sue, but to win. I assume the suit would be dismissed after depositions. That’s why large businesses like Ford, Coke, entities like those immediately attack the smallest violation. Usually a threatening legal letter suffices without going to court.

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22 hours ago, Betty LaRue said:

I don’t know the law there, but here, once you know of a violation of your work and do nothing, I believe you’ve lost your rights to sue forevermore.


Korda was going on moral rights -- Che was not a drinker.  The suit would have been in either the EU or Cuba, probably the EU, which from some discussions online seems to have more provision for moral rights than the US.   Most photo releases I've seen that were multi-national seem to say that the work won't be used for anything defamatory, but US model releases can be different.  Some models were horrified to find themselves portrayed as diseased sex workers in a Philly weekly's ads for something, but the releases they signed allowed any use.


A German coffee grinder company has labeled its high end hand grinder "Comandante" to borrow the romance of the leftist revolutionaries in Latin America, but no individual comandante is named.

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Goldsmith's lawyers told the Supreme Court that a ruling favouring the (Warhol) foundation would "transform copyright law into all copying, no right."


In its amicus brief to the court in August, the Justice Department said that reversing the appeal court ruling "would dramatically expand the scope of fair use."


Fair Use is not fair to artists, if it is so broad that someone can simply copy and distort something and call it a new work.


AP won against Shepard Fairey: The US artist who created the well-known "Hope" poster featuring President Barack Obama has been given two years probation and fined $25,000 (£15,000) in a criminal contempt case.


Part of the Goldsmith case that often gets missed is, she licensed the image to Vanity Fair, not Warhol.

  • Defendant Lynn Goldsmith took 11 photographs of Prince at her New York Studio in 1981
  • Though the photos were created on assignment for Newsweek, the photos were never published
  • Vanity Fair asked for and received a license from Goldsmith to use one of the Prince photographs “for use as an artist reference in connection with an article to be published…”
  • Warhol created a single image which was used in connection with a 1984 article about Prince titled “Purple Fame” for which Vanity Fair gave Goldsmith a credit for the “source photograph”
  • Sometime later, Warhol creates the “Prince Series” of 16 images based on the Goldsmith photograph, and begins to sell both originals and copies


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