Assignment #12: Copyright!

Hi everyone!

You know, when I opened Larry Lessig’s TED talk, I wondered for a moment why he had a picture of Andy Warhol in the background, then it clicked. Yeah, there’s gonna be a LOT of legal grey area here.

So for those of you who don’t know, Andy Warhol was a 20th century pop artist, famous for his silkscreened images of famous people. You may have seen his work around the internet:


Warhol was very careful/lucky when it came to copyright infringement. He did the Marilyn Munroe silkscreens after her death so it was regarded as a tribute. In the case of Campbell Soup, he was insanely lucky. They literally wrote him a letter thanking him for promoting their product AND sent him free soup!

Keep in mind, Warhol was making money off of this, none of which went to Campbell Soup. I literally can’t imagine any company today doing the same. There was a very interesting case brought up against his foundation on whether his work with the Prince series was considered “fair use” or not after the photographer sued the foundation. The decision was ruled in favor of the Andy Warhol Foundation.


“I’m talking about people taking and recreating using other people’s content, using digital technologies to say things differently.”

– Larry Lessig

But in today’s society, it’s really hard to determine what constitutes “fair use”, because it heavily varies from case to case. Can I sue Andy Warhol for using my photograph in his work? That’s about as effective as trying to sue Picasso for appropriating African art and culture.

Yup, copyright is a double-edged sword. However, I don’t think that this should discourage us from creating art. Everyone has a right to express how they think and feel through art, and maybe your creativity is stimulated by seeing the things in your environment. No harm in looking for inspiration from the things around you.