Lynn Goldsmith is Raising Money to Cover Costs of Winning Warhol Copyright Case

Goldsmith v Warhol

Photographer Lynn Goldsmith may have won her intellectual property case at the United States Supreme Court against the Andy Warhol Foundation, but her victory came at grievous financial cost.

Goldsmith spent seven years in a legal battle following Andy Warhol’s unauthorized — and, as it turns out, illegal — use of Goldsmith’s famous portrait of musical artist Prince as a “reference.” Goldsmith fought tooth and nail against the Andy Warhol Foundation, as the renowned artist passed away at age 58 in 1987.

The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that Warhol’s use of Goldsmith’s photo did not constitute fair use. This decision, reached in May, affirmed the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ conclusion that Warhol’s work was not transformative and therefore violated Goldsmith’s copyright.

After a drawn-out appeals process, Justice Sotomayor authored the majority seven-to-two opinion that Warhol had violated copyright.

Lynn Goldsmith with her attorney Lisa Blatt outside US Supreme Court on October 12, 2022 after oral arguments in her case. | Photo by Mickey H. Osterreicher

Despite having been in the right, Goldsmith’s battle proved extremely costly. “The costs were well above $2.5 million. I knew from the start that there were not damages in there for me to collect on because I’m beyond the statutes of limitation,” Goldsmith has told Billboard in an interview about her new photo book of Bruce Springsteen.

Prince Warhol Goldsmith
Photo courtesy of © Lynn Goldsmith

Due to her financially devastating court battle, Goldsmith was forced to sell her home. Worse yet, as detailed in PetaPixel’s prior reporting, dating back to 2017, Warhol’s estate actually started the legal battle and sued Goldsmith because she rightly believed that Warhol had violated her copyright. The “preemptive strike” necessitated Goldsmith’s ruinous legal proceedings.

“Also, I didn’t sue them, they sued me. Not only did I want to stand up to the bullying — wealthy individuals as well as companies or foundations can weaponize the legal system to grab rights –but all photographers were just sick of people thinking they could just take things without permission,” Goldsmith says.

The photographer has set up a GoFundMe to help recoup some of the legal costs of protecting her rights. The photographer has raised just over $70,000 of her $750,000 goal, which Goldsmith says is a “drop in the bucket.”

Goldsmith v Warhol
A portrait of Goldsmith from her GoFundMe

Goldsmith explains on her GoFundMe page:

There are more than 150,000 photographers in the United States. I don’t know how many visual artists in other areas there are but if each were to donate $10 each, we’d have the money needed for legal costs in this battle. The Warhol Foundation is the richest arts organization in the world. I’ve been one person battling them with help from people who have donated on my [GoFundMe]. I took out a loan to pay about the $400,000.00 I have already spent battling this the past two years. I need your help to continue this legal battle not just with money but with using your time, your voice, to speak to your community, your schools, your artist friends, that if we want the copyright law to do what I believe congress meant for it to do when they wrote the law….. protect artists, then they will go to their social networks and express themselves and ask others to do so as well about the rights of creators and the importance of them to this country.

It’s time for us to STAND TOGETHER, to show that we will protect our rights and will not be intimidated by the money it costs to be in the fight.

In a November 8th update on her GoFundMe, Goldsmith explains that she is still waiting on a court date when she will seek damages. However, even still, she says that “if awarded anything, it certainly will not pay for the legal fees.”