The US High Court will decide how artists can use the works of others

The United States Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear a case that could help decide how artists can use the works of others.

The court agreed to decide a Copyright dispute between photographer Lynn Goldsmith and the domain by modern artist Andy Warhol. The dispute centers on Warhol’s 1984 paintings of music star Prince.

The judges have agreed to hear the Andy Warhol Foundation’s appeal against a lower court decision. This ruling concluded that Warhol’s paintings based on an image of Prince by Goldsmith were not protected by the fair use idea of ​​US copyright law. The photos were taken for Newsweek reviewed in 1981.

Goldsmith, now 74, counter attack The estate of Warhol in 2017 on that of Warhol without license Prince paintings. Warhol’s estate had asked a federal court in New York to find that his works did not infringe his copyright. Warhol was famous for basing some of his art on available photographs and images. He died in 1987.

Goldsmith said she only learned of the unlicensed works after Prince died in 2016. She asked the court to prevent Warhol’s estate from further using her work. She also wants to receive what is called damages for the use of her work.

A judge had previously ruled that Warhol’s works were protected against Goldsmith’s claims by the idea of ​​fair use. Under fair use, a copyrighted work can be used without the owner’s permission if several ideas of fairness are met. For example, fair use is allowed if the artist modifies or transforms the work into something new. Fair dealing is also permitted if the new work is a parody.

The judge found that Warhol’s paintings transformed Goldsmith’s image of Prince into “vulnerable human being” by showing it as a “iconiclarger than life figure.”

Goldsmith challenged this earlier decision. The case then went to the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. Last year the court ruled that Warhol’s paintings did not make fair use of Goldsmith’s photo. This allowed Goldsmith’s case to continue.

The 2nd Circuit decided that a transformative work must have a “fundamentally different and new artistic purpose and character”. The court said Warhol’s paintings were “much closer to presenting the same work in a different form”.

The Andy Warhol Foundation then asked the United States Supreme Court in December to overturn the 2nd Circuit decision. The foundation argued that the ruling created legal uncertainty for any art like Warhol’s.

Warhol Foundation lawyer Roman Martinez said he welcomed the High Court’s decision to hear the case. He hopes he will “recognize that Andy Warhol’s transformative artworks are fully protected by law”.

Goldsmith said in a statement provided by one of her lawyers that she looks forward to continuing her legal fight in the Supreme Court.

“I fought this lawsuit to protect not only my own rights, but the rights of all photographers and visual artists to make a living by licensing their creative work – and also to decide when, how and even if feat their creative works or authorize others to do so,” Goldsmith said.

The Supreme Court addressed the issue of fair use in copyright last year. One of its decisions concluded that Google’s use of Oracle Corporation software code in its Android operating system was protected.

In a 1994 Supreme Court ruling on fair use involving artistic creation, judges ruled that rap music group 2 Live Crew’s parody of a song by performer Roy Orbison was fair use.

I am Dan Novak.

Dan Novak adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reporting by The Associated Press.


words in this story

Copyright nm the legal right to be the only one to reproduce, publish and sell a book, musical recording or other work for a certain period of time

domain nm an organization that takes care of things left behind by a person after death

counterattackv. use legal proceedings to get a court to change a previous decision or bring a lawsuit in response to legal actions brought by someone else

without license adj. not having an official document authorizing you to do, possess or manufacture something

transform v. completely change something (usually in a good way)

parody nm a piece of writing, music, or other work that imitates the style of someone or something else in a humorous way

vulnerable adj. capable of being injured; at risk of injury

iconic adj. describing a widely known image, object, or person that represents something; a very successful and famous person

feat v. to use (someone or something) in a way that unfairly helps you

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