Copyright Law and Artistic Creativity

The Intersection of Copyright Law and Artistic Creativity: Lessons  from Andy Warhol Foundation v. Goldsmith and a Comparison with  Indian Copyright Law


The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts v. Goldsmith case has sparked extensive  discussions on the relationship between copyright law and artistic expression. This memo briefly  explores the case and compares the fair use provisions in U.S. copyright law with those in Indian  copyright law. By examining these frameworks, we can gain valuable insights into the challenges  of balancing copyright protection and artistic innovation.

Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts v. Goldsmith

In this recent landmark case, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled in favour  of celebrity photographer Lynn Goldsmith, affirming her claim that the Andy Warhol estate  infringed her copyright. In 1981, Goldsmith photographed the renowned musician, Prince, for  Rolling Stone magazine. In 1984, Andy Warhol created a series of silkscreen prints based on  Goldsmith’s photograph. The Andy Warhol Foundation later licensed one of Warhol’s prints to  Condé Nast for use in a magazine article about Prince.  

Goldsmith sued the Andy Warhol Foundation for copyright infringement. The district court  granted summary judgment to the foundation, finding that its use of Goldsmith’s photograph  was fair use. However, the Second Circuit reversed the ruling, holding that the foundation’s use  was not transformative and, therefore, not fair use.  

The SCOTUS affirmed the Second Circuit’s decision. It held that the foundation’s use of  Goldsmith’s photograph was not transformative because it did not add a new expression or  meaning to the original work. The court also found that the foundation’s use was commercial in  nature, which weighed against a finding of fair use.  

The SCOTUS’s verdict sheds light on the complex considerations involved in determining fair use,  with Justice Sonia Sotomayor authoring the majority opinion. 

The Fair Use Factors: A Comparative Analysis  

In the United States, fair use is determined by four key factors: the purpose and character of  the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount used, and the effect on the market for  

1 Read the full opinion of the SCOTUS at 21-869 Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts, Inc. v. …  Supreme Court of the United States (.gov) › opinions ( 1  

the original work. Similarly, Indian copyright law includes a fair use defense, considering factors  such as the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the proportion  used, and the impact on the potential market for the copyrighted work.  

In Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts v. Goldsmith, factors such as the commercial nature  of the use, the absence of transformative elements, and the potential negative impact on the  market for Goldsmith’s photograph were decisive in the SCOTUS’s decision. Applying a similar  analytical framework, Indian courts would likely reach a similar conclusion, considering the  broad application of fair use principles within Indian copyright law. However, it is important to  note that the Indian courts have not yet ruled on a case directly analogous to Andy Warhol  Foundation v. Goldsmith. As such, it is impossible to say with certainty how the Indian courts would  rule in a similar case.  

While Indian and U.S. laws on fair use are similar, some key differences exist. Indian law does  not explicitly mention the transformative nature of a work or the commercial nature of use as  factors in determining fair use, but Indian courts have held that these factors are relevant. It is  vital to be aware of the specific provisions of Indian copyright law when creating and using  copyrighted material in India.  


The Andy Warhol Foundation v. Goldsmith case offers valuable insights into fair use in U.S.  copyright law and prompts a consideration of the potential application of similar principles  within Indian copyright law. Still, balancing copyright protection and artistic innovation remains  a complex challenge in both legal frameworks. 2