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Warhol Foundation Files Pre-emptive Lawsuit in “Prince” Series Dispute

The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts is requesting a declaratory judgment from a United States District Court in New York in a pre-emptive lawsuit against a photographer who claims that the famous Pop artist violated her copyright when he produced his series of Prince portraits in 1984.

Lynn Goldsmith said that Warhol’s appropriation of her 1981 photograph of the musician is not fair use. “The issue of copyright infringement will, despite Warhol’s pre-emptive attempt to silence me, be decided by the court if the matter is not resolved,” Goldsmith wrote on her website.

According to the complaint filed on April 7, the foundation says that the works are transformative and that the defendant’s “meritless” claims should be dismissed since she is well outside of the three-year statue of limitations on copyright claims. In response, Goldsmith said that she was not aware of the similarities between the two works until she saw them on Instagram in the months after Prince’s death last year.

The foundation calls the legal dispute a “shake down” as well as a “campaign to profit from Prince Rogers Nelson’s tragic death” and asserts the Goldsmith should have learned about the works in November of 1984 when they were widely circulated by Vanity Fair via their feature in Tristan Vox’s article “Purple Flame: An Appreciation of Prince at the Height of His Powers.”

As the foundation was established after Warhol’s death in 1987 to help make advancements in the field of the visual arts, it states that it would be in the public’s best interest for the court to protect Warhol’s legacy.