Supreme Court rules against Andy Warhol in copyright dispute over Prince portrait

(CNN) The The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday When the late Andy Warhol created a series of silkscreens based on a photograph of the late singer Prince, he violated the photographer’s copyright.

The verdict was rendered 7-2.

The court rejected arguments by a lawyer for the Andy Warhol Foundation (the artist died in 1987) that his works were modified sufficiently to not raise copyright concerns.

The global art world is closely watching the opinion to see how the court balances the freedom of an artist to borrow from existing works and the restrictions of copyright law.

“Goldsmith’s original works, like those of other photographers, are entitled to copyright protection against famous artists. Such protection includes the right to produce derivative works that modify the original,” Judge Sonia Sotomayor said, referring to Lynn Goldsmith. , the photographer at the center of the case.

In a dissent by Justice Elena Kagan, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, the liberal judge wrote: “It would stifle all forms of creativity. It would stifle new art and music and literature. It would stifle the expression of new ideas. The acquisition of new knowledge. It would impoverish our world.”

At the heart of the case was whether Warhol infringed Goldsmith’s copyright when Warhol created a series of silkscreens of the composer Prince.

At issue is the “fair use” doctrine in copyright law, which allows unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances.

In this case, a district court ruled in Warhol’s favor, based on the fact that the two works in question had different meaning and message. But an appeals court reversed — ruling that new meaning or message wasn’t enough to qualify as fair use.

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This story has been updated with additional reporting.

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