The US and Italy set precedents in copyright and art
May 26 2023
milestones in copyright
The Italian magazine GQ Italia finds itself embroiled in a legal dispute stemming from the publication of an edited image of the renowned David sculpture. This incident has ignited a broader debate concerning the utilization of public domain artworks for commercial purposes. The ensuing litigation unfolded in the Court of Rome, where it was determined that cultural heritage serves as an expression of national identity. As a result, the unauthorized reproduction of such works not only results in material damage due to the non-payment of copyright fees but also inflicts intangible harm through the symbolic devaluation of the artistic creation.

In a separate but parallel development, the United States Supreme Court recently settled a protracted legal battle originating in 2016 between photographer Lynn Goldsmith and the Andy Warhol Foundation. The dispute revolved around a work of art created by Warhol, which incorporated a photograph of the musician Prince. The Supreme Court ruled that the use and modification of photographs solely for commercial purposes does not qualify as fair use and therefore constitutes a violation of copyright law.

These significant judicial pronouncements have opened a new realm of questions, not only pertaining to similar works like Marilyn Monroe’s portrait or Mao Tse-Tung’s depiction but also encompassing any iconic piece that could be deemed cultural heritage, such as the Mona Lisa or Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel. Once again, these legal verdicts highlight the timeless relevance and enduring protection that copyright law affords to the realm of art, irrespective of the passage of time.