The estate of Andy Warhol is suing a photographer so she does not sue first.
The late pop art icon’s namesake foundation has filed suit against photographer Lynn Goldsmith after learning that she thinks Warhol violated copyright law by appropriating a photo she once took of Prince.
Goldsmith shot the publicity photo of Prince in 1981.
Three years later, Warhol “drew inspiration” from the picture when he painted his “Prince” series, according to attorney Luke Nikas, who represents Warhol’s estate.
But Goldsmith believes more than inspiration was at play and has recently begun to complain to the estate that Warhol’s series is infringing upon her original image.
Feeling the heat, Warhol’s estate launched a preemptive strike and filed suit against Goldsmith in Manhattan federal court, hoping to set precedent barring any future legal challenge she might launch.
“Although Warhol often used photographs taken by others as inspiration for his portraits, Warhol’s works were entirely new creations,” Nikas argued in the complaint.
“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.”
A comparison of Lynn Goldsmith’s publicity photo of Prince (l.) and one of Warhol’s alterations.
(U.S. DISTRICT COURT/THE ANDY WARHOL FOUNDATION FOR THE VISUAL ARTS)
This method of artistry, Nikas argues in the suit, is protected under fair use laws.
Knowing that Warhol’s pieces are protected under such statutes, Goldsmith nonetheless “attempted to extort a settlement” from the Warhol foundation, according to Nikas.
Nikas cited one of Goldsmith’s own Facebook posts as evidence that she was well aware that Warhol’s pieces were protected under law.
“It is a crime that so many ‘artists’ can get away with taking photographers’ images and painting on them or doing whatever to them without asking permission of the ‘artist’ who created the image in the first place,” Goldsmith wrote in the Jan. 2015 post.
Goldsmith said the lawsuit took her by surprise in an email to the Daily News because she thought a settlement was near.
“I believe that Warhol infringed my rights and I will oppose their action and counter claim for copyright infringement,” she said.