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SCOTUS (Purple) Rain'd Down on Warhol

The Supreme Court of the United States issued a decision on May 18th, 2023 in the hotly debated case about Andy Warhol's silk screens of a photographer's copyright protected photograph of the late, great artist Prince.

The high court ruled in favor of the photographer deciding that Warhol's use of the photo was not transformative and therefore not a fair use. There are four prongs of the fair use analysis, but here the court only focused on the commercial purpose of both works and ruled that since they were used for essentially identical purposes, Warhol's work was not a fair use and therefore it is infringing on the photographer's rights. 

The majority opinion was written by Justice Sotomayor, whereas the dissent was written by Justice Kagan - both Obama appointees. Kagan's dissent claims this decision will have major effects on the artistic landscape and will "stifle creativity."  While the effects of this decision are still unknown, there will be a lot of analysis moving forward by artists, content creators, and legal counsel with this particular case top of mind.

The opinion has been closely anticipated by the global art world watching to see how the court would balance an artist’s freedom to borrow from existing works and the restrictions of copyright law.


copyright, warhol, prince, fair use, copyright law, scotus, art law, entertainment law, ip