Tom Cotter
Associate Dean for Research & Planning
Taft Stettinius & Hollister Professor of Law

Prof. Tom Cotter Interviewed by Minnesota Lawyer on U.S. Supreme Court Fair Use Case Regarding Warhol's Image of Prince

Professor Tom Cotter was interviewed by Minnesota Lawyer on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on a case involving an Andy Warhol illustration of Prince. Based on a photograph original destined for a magazine shoot, the Warhol print of Prince has garnered much attention and value over the years, however, the original photographer was had only licensed the photo for print in one issue of Vanity Fair. The Warhol Foundation argues that the print is "transformative", but the question of whether it is or not is fraught with legal complications. Prof. Cotter elaborates, “The meaning of ‘transformative use’ is not always so clear. One difficulty is that copyright owners have the right to prevent the preparation of ‘derivative works,’ and a derivative work is defined in section 101 as ‘a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted’ (emphasis added). So, some transformations infringe, whereas others are lawful fair uses.”