In Warhol v. Goldsmith, Opinion located here, the estate of deceased pop artist Andy Warhol argued its use of the photo at issue was fair use under the first of the four Fair Use test factors (the “purpose and character of the use”), because Warhol’s contributions were transformative, adding new expression, meaning, or message. The Court countered that while relevant to whether a copying use has a sufficiently distinct purpose or character, it is not, without more, dispositive. It must be weighed against other considerations, like commercialism. Here, the specific use of Goldsmith’s photograph alleged to infringe her copyright is AWF’s licensing of Orange Prince to Condé Nast. As portraits of Prince used to depict Prince in magazine stories about Prince, the original photograph and AWF’s copying use of it share substantially the same commercial purpose.

In 2016, the Andy Warhol Foundation (AWF) licensed an image of “Orange Prince”—an orange silkscreen portrait of the musician Prince created by pop artist Andy Warhol to Condé Nast for $10,000 to appear on a magazine cover. The image is one of 16 works (the Prince Series) derived from a copyrighted photograph taken in 1981 by Lynn Goldsmith, who had been commissioned by Newsweek in 1981 to photograph musician named Prince Rogers Nelson.

Years later, Goldsmith granted a limited license to Vanity Fair for use of one of her Prince photos as an “artist reference for an illustration.” The terms of the license included that the use would be for “one time” only. Vanity Fair hired Warhol to create the illustration, and Warhol used Goldsmith’s photo to create a purple silkscreen portrait of Prince, which appeared with an article about Prince in Vanity Fair’s November 1984 issue. The magazine credited Goldsmith for the “source photograph” and paid her $400. 

After Prince died in 2016, Vanity Fair’s parent company (Condé Nast) asked AWF about reusing the 1984 Vanity Fair image for a special edition magazine that would commemorate Prince. When Condé Nast learned about the other Prince Series images, it opted instead to purchase a license from AWF to publish Orange Prince. Goldsmith did not know about the Prince Series until 2016, when she saw Orange Prince on the cover of Condé Nast’s magazine. Goldsmith notified AWF of her belief that it had infringed her copyright. AWF then sued Goldsmith for a declaratory judgment of noninfringement or in the alternative, fair use. Goldsmith counterclaimed for infringement. 

The District Court granted AWF summary judgment on its defense of fair use. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding that all four fair use factors favored Goldsmith. In this Court, the sole question presented is whether the first fair use factor, “the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes,” §107(1), weighs in favor of AWF’s recent commercial licensing to Condé Nast.Held: The “purpose and character” of AWF’s use of Goldsmith’s photograph in commercially licensing Orange Prince to Condé Nast does not favor AWF’s fair use defense to copyright infringement. Pp. 12–38.