Warhol Foundation to pay $21,000 to settle dispute over infamous Prince portrait

The $21,000 sum closes the chapter on a long-running dispute that stirred debate in the art and music world. 

The dispute between the Warhol Foundation and Lynn Goldsmith has ended, with Warhol’s estate agreeing to pay the photographer for its unlicensed use of her Prince portrait. 

The Andy Warhol Foundation will settle the dispute with a $21,000 payment to Goldsmith, resolving a decades-long court battle over the fair use of the Prince photograph, first captured by Goldsmith in 1981.

Andy Warhol Prince portrait dispute
Credit: Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

At the time, Goldsmith took a portrait image of Prince while on an assignment for Newsweek. The magazine never published the images, but Goldsmith retained the licensing for future use.

Years later, after Purple Rain catapulted Prince to stardom, Vanity Fair paid $400 to licence the image as a reference for Warhol to use for a screenprint. 

Goldsmith was not made aware that Vanity Fair had enlisted Warhol for his take on the image, which would later inform the artist’s 16-photograph ‘Prince Series’.

Years later, Warhol’s print of Prince was used as the cover image of Vanity Fair’s tribute edition, following the musician’s death in 2016. 

Andy Warhol Prince portrait dispute
Lynn Goldsmith. Credit: Sid Schneider

So ensued a lengthy legal battle, in which Goldsmith alleged that the Warhol Foundation had infringed both copyright and fair use.

The estate preemptively sued the celebrity photographer — who has captured the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson and Bob Dylan — claiming instead that it at least owned the original copyright of the Prince Series, since the changes were drastic enough to constitute fair use. 

The court has ultimately sided with Goldsmith, saying it “require[s] [the Warhol Foundation] to pay Goldsmith a fraction of the proceeds from its reuse of her copyrighted work.”


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The $21, 000 sum includes $11,000 of Goldsmith’s legal fees. For her part, Goldsmith said the ruling “is crucially important because it affirms the rights of photographers and other creators.”

“I am proud to have fought this successful fight on their behalf,” she added. It draws to a close a divisive court case that called into question the idea of “fair use.” In any case, Goldsmith is laughing all the way to the bank.