(Courtesy of National Gallery of Art)

The Velvet Underground says that the foundation was wrong to license the image to Apple for iPad and iPhone products.

Because the image is so closely associated with the band, the Velvet Underground claims in the suit that the foundation is trying to “decieve the public” into thinking the band gives their approval to products that carry the image, the BBC reports.

While the Warhol Foundation claimed it has a copyright interest in the design, the Velvet Underground said the design can’t be copyrighted. They claim the banana image that Warhol appropriated for the cover came from an advertisement in the public domain. According to BusinessWeek, the banana appeared on the album cover without a copyright notice, and no one sought to copyright it.

Warhol had an artistic partnership with the band, who performed in his New York studio. The band and Warhol split a $3,000 advance as payment for his work in 1967, but the artist’s copyrighted works now have a market value of $120 million. The foundation has earned more than $2.5 million a year licensing rights to those works, according to the complaint.

Those are numbers which surely would have pleased Warhol: He once said, “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”


View Photo Gallery: The new exhibit focuses on the artist’s fascination with news media, tabloid, and tragedy.