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  • Curt Levey

In Warhol Copyright Case, CFJ Urges SCOTUS to Affirm Property Rights

The Committee for Justice released the following statement on the Supreme Court amicus brief it filed in Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts v. Lynn Goldsmith:

This week, the Committee for Justice filed a Supreme Court amicus brief in support of strong copyright protection for Lynn Goldsmith, a renowned photographer whose 1981 photo of Prince was copied by Andy Warhol in a series of silkscreen images. The Andy Warhol Foundation (AWF) licensed one of the silkscreens to Conde Nast in 2016, giving no credit or payment to Goldsmith. AWF argues that Warhol’s image constituted “fair use” of Goldsmith’s work because it added “new meaning or message” to the original, making it “transformative.”

CFJ got involved in this case because central to its mission is the preservation of the Constitution's protection of individual liberty, including the fundamental civil right to the fruits of one’s own labor, which the Constitution’s Copyright Clause protects.

CFJ’s brief in the case was authored by John Reeves (lead counsel) of Reeves Law and CFJ president Curt Levey. The case will be argued before the High Court on October 12.

As our brief explains, AWF is effectively asking the Supreme Court to hold that “anytime an author reproduces someone else’s original work in its entirety, but superimposes his own subjective interpretation upon it, the new work is transformative under the fair use doctrine.” We conclude, however, that “neither the text of the Copyright Clause, nor the history of copyright law, nor this Court’s precedent can support such a reading.”

We explain that AWF fundamentally misconstrues the Copyright Clause as being a utilitarian instrument that does nothing other than advance creativity, without regard to property rights. Instead, we urge the High Court to affirm the Second Circuit’s holding and rule that Warhol’s silkscreen infringes on Goldsmith’s fundamental civil right to the fruits of her labor in creating the original Prince photo.


Media Contact: Curt Levey

Phone: (202) 510-0128


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