Famous Artist vs. Goldsmith
An artist's work can be stolen and the theft may be legal...

Howard Schatz Posted by Howard Schatz on July 23, 2019


The bad news: an artist’s work can be stolen. The worse news: the theft may be legal.

You are a photographer. You make an image — original, uniquely yours. The image is published in a book, magazine, newspaper, or online. All good things.

Then a famous artist sees the image, downloads it, alters it to fit his or her style and sells it as his or her original art. You receive nothing. Neither credit nor compensation. And, that artist can copyright the image as his and sue you preemptively to secure that new copyright!

And the altered image can now be published in magazines, newspapers, and books, (not to mention sold as original art) which could put you – the original artist — in legal jeopardy with the subject(s) in your photograph, despite your having obtained the usual releases.

Though it would seem that any court would see the preposterous injustice in this, you actually may have no recourse. By virtue of a few artistic changes, your creation in an altered form is now owned by someone else. How are you going to feel when this occurs? What are you going to do about it?

Photographer Lynn Goldsmith has been in an epic legal struggle to maintain copyright ownership of her images.

Several years ago, a famous artist, took one of her portraits (without permission) and, after altering it somewhat and producing several versions, signed it as his own work.

Goldsmith fought for a legal remedy to what seemed obvious unfair use, but the Federal District Court of New York basically ruled that the images were all recognizable as the work of the said famous artist and that Goldsmith was not harmed by the use of her image. In the judge’s opinion the elements used from Goldsmith’s photo, such as the musician’s pose and facial features, were so changed that they were not protected by copyright laws. Thus, this case was decided against Goldsmith and in the favor of the famous artist’s Foundation.

What this ruling clearly means is that any work you create as an artist is vulnerable to this kind of expropriation. This dreadful decision is aimed directly at all of us in the artistic community regardless of medium. An appeal of this decision by the Federal District Court is currently underway.

Every artist, every photographer who cares about their work needs to participate seriously and actively in this major legal case.


I ask you to please contribute to the defense fund to help combat this damaging decision

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My wife, Beverly Ornstein, and I have donated $1,000 to this important fund and I ask all of you to join in the effort to prevent the erosion of our legally established copyrights.

If all of us as photographers and artists who care about our work take the time to post and share this site on our social networks and donate significantly to the defense fund, Lynn (and all of us whose work depends on our copyrights) might have a chance to win on appeal. Lynn Goldsmith is planning to risk everything she owns to keep fighting, and she needs an army of support.

Please help, dig deeply; this appeal to all photographers and artists needs to be powerful and become viral.

Lynn Goldsmith’s appeal to fight the ruling that shatters the right of any photographer to definitively copyright his or her work can be found on her site.

Please share this with every creative person you know!


Originally posted on the blog of Howard Schatz

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Howard SchatzHoward has received international acclaim for his work and is one of the most sought-after photographers working today.  Over the last 25 years 22 major books have been published of his work; he has won virtually every award in photography and has had over 100 museum and gallery exhibitions world-wide. He has made extraordinary images for such advertising clients as Ralph Lauren RLX, Escada, Sergio Tacchini, Nike, Reebok, Wolford, Etienne Aigner, Sony, Adidas, Finlandia Vodka, MGM Grand Hotel, Virgin Records, and Mercedes-Benz.

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