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The debate over what separates inspiration from copying is as old as art itself. Creative professionals of all kinds are constantly taking themes and elements from others’ works to use them in their own creations. But when do they cross the line from borrowing themes and elements to outright copying someone else’s work? That line isn’t always easy to define, and the recent Supreme Court ruling against the estate of Andy Warhol has just made the line blurrier.

If you’re unfamiliar with the case, Lynn Goldsmith sued the Andy Warhol Foundation for allegedly infringing on her copyright.

Goldsmith is a photographer who took the photo of Prince that Warhol used to create his Prince series. Goldsmith licensed the photograph to Vanity Fair, which hired Warhol to create a silkscreen based on the photo. The licensing agreement they had with Goldsmith allowed them to use her photo as reference for an illustration. The terms of the agreement stated that the photo would be used only once for an artistic illustration.

Goldsmith assumed the purple silkscreen portrait of Prince used in Vanity Fair’s November 1984 issue was the only illustration created from her photo. Then Vanity Fair’s parent company, Condé Nast, approached the Andy Warhol Foundation about reusing the purple silkscreen of Prince in 2016 for an article about the musician after his death. That was when the magazine company realized there was a whole series of Prince paintings. They offered to buy the Orange Prince instead, which is when Goldsmith realized there were other artworks based off her photo, which she alleges violated her agreement with Vanity Fair. Continue reading ›

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