Photographer sues Kat Von D over tattoo of her 30-year-old photo


We have seen different types of copyright infringement lawsuits, and here is a very unusual one. Photographer Jeff Sedlik filed a complaint against the famous tattoo artist Kat von D who used his photo of Miles Davis for a tattoo. The photographer is claiming $ 150,000 in legal damages plus all profits made by depicting the tattoo and removing any “derivative works” she may have made from it.

Kat von D (Katherine Von Drachenberg) rose to fame after starring in the TLC reality series Ink, running between 2007 and 2011. In March 2017, she used Jeff Sedlik’s photo of Miles Davis as a reference and tattooed it on her client’s arm. She has shared it several times with her 7.4 million followers on Instagram, as well as on her Facebook page. You can also see the photo in this short clip on YouTube.

Hush! Don’t tell anyone, but it’s actually Kat Von D’s first time portraying the incomparable #MilesDavis. So far is going well, eh ?? Which musician would you have?

posted by High voltage tattoo to Friday March 17, 2017

According to the trial, Sedlik alleges that his Instagram photo “depicts the ‘end product’ of the unauthorized and unlicensed reproduction of the accused Kat Von D and derivative work of the iconic portrait of Miles Davis in the form of a tattoo.” He also claims that an April 15, 2017 HVT Instagram post “depicts an almost exact duplication of the iconic portrait of Miles Davis as portrayed by defendant Kat Von D.”

Sedlik took this photo of Miles Davis at his beach home in Malibu, Calif., In 1989. The portrait has been sold with a non-exclusive license to reproduce, distribute, and display since its inception. The first time it was released was shortly after its creation: it became part of a cover story in JAZZIZ magazine circa August 1989.

This is the only photo Sedlik sells on its Saatchi Art account, where he adds a bit of history:

“I prepared for this portrait shoot over a period of several years, working on hundreds of concepts, creating dozens of sketches. Miles selected a number of my sketches, but this concept was his favorite. To take this photograph, I created a 20’x20 ‘tent of black fabric on the patio behind his house. The image was taken at noon, in full sun, under a large sailcloth. Miles treated me with respect and I photographed him several times in his later years.

In addition to the backstory, Sedlik requires that his photos not be copied or used without contacting him for a license first, nor new artwork should be made based on his photo. So he decided to sue when he saw that Kat von D had made art from her photograph.

According to Billboard, the photographer wants Kat von D and her company High Voltage Tattoo to remove all content that references her image from all print, web and social media platforms. He is also seeking statutory damages of $ 150,000 per work depicting the tattoo, including “derivative works” such as advertising, marketing and promotional material. But that’s not all. Sedlik also needs all the profits that Kat von D and her studio made from the use of the image, as well as any losses that Sedlik suffered as a result of that use. There is also “any other monetary benefit obtained; all other damages available under copyright law; legal fees and prosecution costs; and interest before and after judgment.

However, Sedlik claims he did not file a complaint like this. In a statement he made to Billboard, he said he “contacted Kat von D ‘artist to artist” (through her representatives) to seek an amicable resolution of the matter. ” . However, he claims that she “chose to ignore [his] good faith effort to avoid litigation.

Honestly, I have no idea how this could turn out. I don’t know how the law works with this kind of derivative work, I never even thought about it. I think tattoos based on photos are considered derivative work. But then again, Kat von D didn’t make money with the photo itself, but by drawing it on someone’s skin. I have to admit that I am confused and very curious to see how this ends. If you have knowledge and experience on this particular topic, I would love to hear from you. And even if you don’t, I’d love to know what you think – who will win this one?

You can read the trial here.

[via PetaPixel; image credits: Thivierr via Wikimedia Commons/YouTube screenshot]


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