What is not addressed in the article is the question, "Who wons it?" Was
Warhol paid as an artist for hire, as with his Colubia covers, in which case
he has no futher rights unless indicated otherwise in the contract, or did
he retain copyright for other uses of the image?
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of David Lewis
Sent: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 6:36 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [ARSCLIST] VU vs. Warhol Foundation
This is a really interesting case as it is based on something that relates
to the copyright status of cover art, in this case an old piece of cover art
that may not have been copyrighted in the first place. The banana image was
probably never used as a trademark for the band when they were still active,
however their years of popularity -- indeed, their recognition in the rock
canon at all -- lay ahead of them when the band broke up in 1972. And the
label for which the art was made went down the tubes at about the same time,
purchased at a rock bottom price by Mike Curb and later sold to Polygram.
One would think Curb would not be so excited by the prospects of handling
the Velvets' output, but he actually was behind the "Archetypes" reissue in
1976. But that did not use the banana, nor did European reissues of VU
material in between that and "VU" in 1987.
I do think at least Reed and Cale were ready to be done with the Velvets ca.
1980, but the public and press kept clamoring for them. And the t-shirts and
handbags using the trademark just kept coming even when the albums were out
of print, which was the case mostly through about 1987. What's at stake is
who benefits by it and how to approach it, as whatever agreement there was
between the band and Warhol himself is certainly undocumented. I'm sure that
if Andy were alive he would probably let VU have the revenue from the swag;
the question is whether he would use the image to promote himself and if the
Foundation has rights in this area.
After all, Warhol's own signature is part of the artwork.
What a mess. I'm so glad they finally got their due, but the merchandising
troubles here opens up a whole new range of issues.
Uncle Dave Lewis