The circumstances of this situation remind me of the Obama “Hope” poster. Photographer makes a photograph, photograph gets appropriated, then remade as a stylised artwork. The Associated Press sued artist Shepard Fairey on the photographer’s behalf, and the matter was settled out of court. The story here starts off somewhat the same. In 1981, photographer Lynn Goldsmith made a photograph of the the artist still then known as Prince.
Three years later, Warhol then allegedly took this photograph and made a series of new pieces using the photograph as “inspiration”. The NY Daily News reports that Goldsmith believes more than simple inspiration was taken from her image, and that it infringes upon her creation. So, the estate of Andy Warhol have launched a preemptive strike against Goldsmith and filed suit against her. Their hope is to set a precedent preventing any future legal challenges she may make.
Their claim seems to be that it is not simply a copy of Goldsmith’s photograph. That it is an entirely new creating that was simply inspired by her image. Completely changing the look and meaning from the original photograph.
The Warhole Foundation attorney, Luke Nikas, argued in the complaint…
Although Warhol often used photographs taken by others as inspiration for his portraits, Warhol’s works were entirely new creations.
As would be plain to any reasonable observer, each portrait in Warhol’s Prince Series fundamentally transformed the visual aesthetic and meaning of the Prince Publicity Photograph.
– Luke Nikas
The reason they’re filing this claim now is that they allege that Goldsmith “attempted to extort a settlement” from the Warhol Foundation. At least according to Nikas.
Goldsmith posted to Facebook that she was “surprised” by the news that she was being sued by the Warhol Foundation. She states that the photograph was originally licensed in 1984 as reference material for a one time use in the print version of Vanity Fair to create an illustration.
She goes on to say that it was not a “publicity photograph” as the Warhol Foundation claim. And this is where it gets quite interesting. In the claim, as seen by the screenshot above, Nikas claim that the images are different, and show a colour photograph which indeed appears to be shot at a slightly different angle.
Goldsmith, however, also posted the original image to Facebook, and it’s not the one shown above. The image that she says she licensed was a black & white photograph. This black & white photograph.
When the two are laid on top of each other, the whole “angle of the subject’s face” thing kind of gets blown out of the water.
It certainly appears to me that the Warhol Foundation are attempting to mislead in their claim, by using a different photograph.
I have to ask: what is the copyright law for, if not to protect creators?
– Lynn Goldsmith
Goldsmith told NY Daily News that she believes Warhol infringed her rights, will oppose their action and counter claim for copyright infringement.
Why wait so long for any of this to happen? Well, Goldsmith says she didn’t even know he’d created the works until they popped up on Instagram last year following Prince’s death.
The appropriation of somebody else’s photograph to produce “art” is certainly not new. Another Prince, Richard Prince, has been “getting way with it” for years. Indeed this very case stems back more than 30 years, and it would’ve probably been settled while Warhol was still alive, had Goldsmith been aware of its existence then.
While I hope Goldsmith is successful here, it will be interesting to watch how this plays out. If she does win, it will be equally as interesting to see what precedents and consequences it may present for those who also appropriate the work of others for their own “creations”.
[via NY Daily News]
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