Kat Von D Photo-Inspired Tattoo Case Tests Fair Use

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Copyright infringement is a huge topic and perenially so it seems.

shallow focus photo of person tattooing person's right arm
Shallow focus photo of person tattooing person's right arm. Photo by Lucas Lenzi

And with the rise of artificial intelligence modules capable of generating everything from images to videos to sound and music, the outlines of copyright law are likely to remain at the forefront of many creators’ minds. 

Tattoo artist Kat Von D is at the center of a particularly interesting case in the United States that is testing the limits of the “fair use” doctrine. Her tattoo of Miles Davis drew inspiration from a photograph of the artist to such an extent that the original photographer, Jeff Sedik, filed a lawsuit. A post shows Kat Von D working from the photo while designing the tattoo for a client, Rolling Stone reports.

PetaPixel noted the similarity between this case and the one involving a photograph of the musician Prince and the Andy Warhol estate with the latter’s use of the photograph being ruled outside of the bounds of fair use. This case, however, would the first test of this involving a tattoo.  

Just as with many cases of this type, Sedlik will have to demonstrate that Kat Von D’s use of his image was commercial in nature and possibly damaged his ability to make money off of it, two aspects that his counsel is confident that they will be able to demonstrate. Like many creators, Sedlik relies upon licensing of his work to make a living and using things without proper compensation hurts his ability to make a living and, by implication, more art. 

Any insights you might have into this legal case or the fair use doctrine in the United States are welcome in the comments. 

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About Author

Kehl is our staff photography news writer since 2017 and has over a decade of experience in online media and publishing and you can get to know him better here and follow him on Insta.

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