On May 18, 2023, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of famed rock photographer Lynn Goldsmith against the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.’s (AWF), in a long-awaited decision impacting fair use under Section 107(1) of the Copyright Act. The opinion written by Justice Sotomayor, in which Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Barrett and Jackson joined, held that the “purpose and character” of AWF’s commercial use of Warhol’s portraits of Prince shared the same commercial purpose of the original photograph taken by Ms. Goldsmith and, as a result, did not constitute fair use. The Court’s decision affirmed the ruling of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that the Warhol work was derivative of the original, and noted that “the new expression may be relevant to whether a copying use has a sufficiently distinct purpose or character” but that factor was not dispositive by itself. The Court found that the Warhol Foundation’s licensing of the Orange Prince to Conde Nast did not have a sufficiently different purpose as the Goldsmith photograph because both were “portraits of Prince used in magazines to illustrate stories about Prince.”
Joe Ireland is an associate in the Entertainment, Technology and Advertising Practice Group in the firm's Century City office.