Lynn Goldsmith’s Perspective on the Lawsuit Filed by the Warhol Estate

ASMP member Lynn Goldsmith hasn’t been served with papers yet, but Andy Warhol’s Estate has filed a lawsuit against her and the photographic industry is watching. “The issue at stake in this matter concerns whether a copyright owner’s rights can be trampled on in the name of fine art. I believe Warhol overstepped the boundaries in this situation. I was surprised that this lawsuit was started since we believed we were near a settlement of the issue. In fact, the attorneys had scheduled a conference call for Friday, April 7th to hopefully finalize a resolution. Instead, without any notice, they filed the lawsuit which seeks to determine whether Warhol infringed my copyright – which he clearly did” says Goldsmith.

Warhol’s usage stems from a request made by Vanity Fair in 1984. They asked to use Goldsmith’s black and white image of Prince for an artist reference in the creation of an illustration. Vanity Fair paid Goldsmith and gave her photo credit.  They never told Goldsmith that the artist was Andy Warhol.  “It was common in those times for magazines like Rolling Stone, Time, Newsweek, etc. to request usage of a photograph for artist reference for a particular illustrated story” says Goldsmith.

According to Goldsmith, the image was licensed for one time use in the print version of Vanity Fair, North America territory only. The photograph supplied was a black and white of Prince from a studio photo shoot that she did on assignment for Newsweek in 1981. “It was never a ‘publicity photo’ that is often handed out freely to the press, as the Warhol Foundation has said” adds Goldsmith.

Overlay of Andy Warhol’s Rendition

It was not until Prince died that Goldsmith saw an image on Instagram that looked like hers. She Googled it and discovered there were numerous additional versions of the illustration by Warhol. Further research also revealed that paintings and screen prints and been made and licensed to others without her knowledge or consent.

“I will be bringing counterclaims for copyright infringement. Therefore, the issue of copyright infringement will, despite Warhol’s preemptive attempt to silence me, be decided by the court if the matter is not resolved” says Goldsmith.

Contrary to the assertions she has read in the press on this matter, Goldsmith has shared these statements:

  1. It was the black and white illustration that I based the infringement charge on since there are no substantial changes.
  2. They seem to claim that due to a Facebook posting I made in Jan 2015, that I must have been aware then of the unauthorized usage. In fact, I was showing other images. Had I been aware of that infringement, I most certainly would have contacted them then!
  3. They said I was trying to “extort’ them, but the amount of money discussed in negotiations of a settlement was extremely modest.
  4. The Warhol Foundation (in what I’ve seen written from news outlets this week as I have not been served yet) presents a color photograph of mine from the same studio portrait session in 1981. This is not the same photograph as the one copied by Warhol. There are statements from their attorney about how it is not identical. I had provided them with a copy of the black and white image which is EXACTLY the same as the Warhol painting, so why are they trying to manipulate the facts?
  5. It seems intentional to me that they are trying to make me look like I’m just money hungry and trying to take advantage of Warhol. In fact I am only trying to protect my copyright.
  6. The black and white photograph I created in my studio in 1981 of Prince is identical to the black and white version of the Warhol and all the variations that use color.

So Goldsmith asks “What is the copyright law for, if not to protect creators”?

Goldsmith believes artists have to stand up for their rights. “You can’t let those with deep money pockets like the Warhol Foundation frighten you into thinking you can’t protect your work because they can just keep you in the courts with mounting legal fees. I am only more resolute now in pursuing the rights which I believe ‘creators’ have” says Goldsmith.

Goldsmith closed by saying “I am hoping that all artist rights organizations will support me in this as the determination of the court can affect the future of all visual artists”.

Feel free to provide your thoughts about this case in the comments section below.

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