Music Industry

Why a copyright judgment against Andy Warhol has implications for the music industry and AI

The US Supreme Court ruled this week that Andy Warhol infringed copyright by painting a portrait of Prince based on a photo taken by Lynn Goldsmith for Vanity Fair. Warhol’s estate argued that the painting was “transformative enough” to be something new and fresh and thus not guilty of infringement. They lost.

So what does this have to do with music? A lot, actually–and this is where AI comes in.

The National Music Publisher’s Association immediately issued this statement:

“Today’s Warhol Foundation decision is a massive victory for songwriters and music publishers. This is an important win that prevents an expansion of the fair use defense based on claims of transformative use. It allows songwriters and music publishers to better protect their works from unauthorized uses, something which will continue to be challenged in unprecedented ways in the AI era.”

The Recording Industry Association of American said this:

“We hope those who have relied on distorted – and now discredited – claims of ‘transformative use,’ such as those who use copyrighted works to train artificial intelligence systems without authorization, will revisit their practices in light of this important ruling.”

In other words, if it’s illegal to mess with something like photograph in order it to transform it into something new but similar, what does that mean for people who mash up copyrighted works into new AI compositions?

Everything is connected when it comes to copyright. We’ll see what happens going forward.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37907 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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