Behind the Screen

Andy Warhol looks a scream, hang him on my wall.
Andy Warhol, silver screen, can’t tell them apart at all.

— David Bowie

An appeals court has ruled Andy Warhol violated a photographer’s copyright 40 years ago, according to The New York Times.

He borrowed her photo without permission to make a silk-screen.

Overturning an earlier decision that the Pop Artist’s reliance on the 1981 photo was “fair use” of the image, the court ruled that Warhol’s “appropriation” of Lynn Goldsmith’s photo of Prince constituted copyright infringement.

For artists, the decision sets a terrible precedent.

“Fair use” should allow an artist to borrow an image, without permission or payment, for purposes of self-expression; but the new court ruling insists an artist cannot do so.

I paint from life, but know many artists who paint every day from photos they’ve grabbed off the web.

Thanks to the court’s decision, they’re now liable for piracy.

Orange Prince.

Before the court’s ruling, copyright didn’t apply to an artist’s work when it “transformed” another.

Now it does.

Specifically, the ruling said an artist can only borrow freely when the new work can “reasonably be perceived as embodying an entirely distinct artistic purpose, one that conveys a ‘new meaning or message’ entirely separate from its source material.”

It cited a collage as an example of a piece that conveys a “new meaning or message.”

But Warhol’s work was a silkscreen.

The ruling means his 1967 silkscreen of Marilyn—and many other Warhol pieces—may also violate copyright laws.

Update, March 2022: The Supreme Court said it would review the copyright infringement lawsuit that pits the Andy Warhol Foundation against Lynn Goldsmith. “The Court’s decision could have major implications for ‘fair use’ of copyrighted materials in art,” said Art News.

Above: Wayne & Andy. Oil on canvas board. 10 x 8 inches. Painted from life. Ships framed and ready to hang.