For some variety, here's an interesting- and to me, infuriating- story that I've heard about from friends for once and not from listserves or Google. So I know friends of friends who had started a modest nightlife establishment in San Antonio, Texas. It's a tiny, dark, and sparse place that specializes in live music and cheap beer. It is near the San Antonio riverwalk, but is still rather on its own, isolated and not on a busy path like Austin's Sixth Street. The young guys who own it had really done a good job of taking it from nothing to a place that has started to draw real talent. It was called, up until recently, 'The Warhol'. It had a cool ring to it. If there was any real reference to the pop artist Andy Warhol on the wall- cheap dorm style posters perhaps- I really didn't notice it on my one visit. The emphasis here was definitely squarely placed on beer and music, not decor.
While on that one visit I commented, only half jokingly, that the Warhol Foundation would hunt them down like dogs. I'd always heard how overly zealous the foundation was when it came to protecting the artist's copyright. In fact, Warhol is the one artist whose works I really don't dare digitize in any form. (Warhol Foundation, if you are watching, Southwestern University relies on legally licensed images!) I am personally glad that courses here only deal with this particular era of art history once every two years or so, roughly.
Anyway, although it took a while to occur, my joking statement has in fact come true! The Warhol Foundation actually delivered the proprietors of 'The Warhol' with some scary paperwork demanding that they drop the name and any association immediately, or be sued. Since the name of the bar has now conspicuously changed, it's no secret what happened.
It just seems silly and absurd to me that the foundation would take the time and trouble to draw up extensive lawsuit paperwork and serve it to, let's face it, a little hole in the wall in provincial San Antonio that only draws a select local crowd. (With all due respect.) I find the whole thing bizarre to begin with since the majority of Andy Warhol's pop art couldn't even exist in the first place in this overly litigious society! Frankly I'd like to see Campbell's Soup corporation, Coca-Cola, Brillo (if they still exist), and the individual photographers of those Marilyn Monroe and Jackie O portraits sue the Warhol Foundation in an ironic twist.
I do understand that artists should have rights to protect their works and their legacy. I suppose 'The Warhol' was profiting monetarily, but I really doubt it was to do with its name. Its patrons were coming there because they either liked alcohol or liked the bands that were booked. Honestly, the name itself was probably lost on half of them to begin with. The bar most certainly wasn't selling reproductions of paintings. In the end it doesn't matter, and while the name has changed the place's music and beer will certainly remain constant. It's just petty in my opinion.
I think they should change the name to 'Factory' just to anger the Foundation; a reference to Warhol's collective 'The Factory', but safe since there's no reasonable way you can copyright a common noun. Andy himself probably would have liked the bar 'The Warhol'. Andy Warhol's group favored mylar and art films while this group prefers Shiner bock and studded punk belts, but the underlying spirit of gathering together and being creative and mutually appreciative of art and/or music is essentially the same.
To read about the Warhol Foundation's mission, "the advancement of the visual arts", click to their home page. And here's a few articles on other legal issues the foundation's been involved in: 'Warhol Foundation Accused of Dominating the Market', 'Warhol Foundation Sued on Authenticity', and 'Warhol Estate Sued Over 'Rigged' Market' all from 2007. I am very glad I never wanted to go into the Art Gallery world.
In that last article, where the Foundation is the one being sued, a spokesman describes the suit as "shocking nonsense". I think that sums up the current legal papers perfectly.