Last week, in a 7–2 decision authored by Justice Sotomayor, the Supreme Court ruled that a 1984 work by artist Andy Warhol, portraying world-renowned singer Prince against an orange background (the “Orange Prince series”), infringed on the copyrights held by rock photographer Lynn Goldsmith.
This high-profile case hinged on whether Warhol’s images of Prince meaningfully transformed Goldsmith’s original black and white photo so as to create a new work of art protected by the fair use doctrine. SCOTUS held that Warhol’s images did not constitute fair use. Justice Sotomayor, writing for the majority, noted that “Goldsmith’s original works, like those of other photographers, are entitled to copyright protections, even against famous artists.”
Justice Elena Kagan wrote a strongly worded dissent expressing concern that the Court’s decision would “stifle creativity of every sort” and “impede new art and music and literature” .
Legal commentators anticipate a flood of copyright infringement lawsuits following the decision.