Bucerius IP Colloquium on U.S. Art Law

Prince Prints: Andy Warhol’s Prince Series and Fair Use under U.S. Copyright Law - An Evening Lecture with Bucerius Alumna Cathy Gellis.

Research & Faculty |

The latest Bucerius IP Colloquium on 20 September 2023 with Cathy Gellis (Lawyer/Policy Advisor, San Francisco) shed light on the recent US Supreme Court’s case decision Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. v. Goldsmith considering the scope of the fair use defense under copyright law.

The Bucerius International Program Alumna started by introducing the audience to the relevant U.S. copyright law as well as U.S. constitutional law provisions – notably the “progress clause” (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8) and the First Amendment.


Case background

In the case, a series of prints depicting the musician Prince created by Andy Warhol – the “Prince Series” – was at issue. The series was based on a photograph taken by Lynn Goldsmith. In 1984, Goldsmith granted Vanity Fair magazine a one-time license to use her Prince photograph.

Vanity Fair then engaged Andy Warhol, who made a silkscreen using Goldsmith’s photo to be published illustrating an article that celebrated the success of Prince’s album Purple Rain. But Warhol also created additional works, a 16-part series in garish colors and reduced contours and depth - typical of the internationally known and loved pop artist.

It was the orange version around which the lawsuit ignited after Condé Nast reproduced it in 2016 following Prince’s death. Goldsmith saw her copyrights infringed. The Supreme Court agreed with her holding that the Warhol Foundation’s licensing to Condé Nast was not permissible under the fair use defense.

Cathy Gellis, who also filed an amicus curiae brief in this case with the U.S. Supreme Court, critically illuminated the decision, referring to case precedent, the fair use doctrine and the freedom of expression protected by the First Amendment. She also answered questions from the audience, both in the room and online, before the discussion continued over wine and pretzels.

The Bucerius IP Colloquium is organized by the Center for Transnational IP, Media and Technology Law and Policy (Bucerius IP Center). The lecture series - initiated by Prof. Dr. Dana Beldiman and Prof. Dr. Linda Kuschel - gives young scientists the opportunity to present their respective field of research.



Janka Aldag