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Back in October 2023 we reported on the legal proceedings faced by celebrity tattoo artist, Katherine von Drachenberg (known professionally as Kat Von D), for alleged copyright infringement.

The contested tattoo features an image of famous Jazz musician, Miles Davis, holding his finger to his lips, and the claimant, Jeff Sedlik, claims the tattoo infringes the copyrights vested in his iconic 1989 photograph. However, Kat Von D has claimed that she only utilised the photograph of Davis as inspiration, noting numerous differences between the image and the tattoo such as the absence of a jacket and the black background.

Representatives for Kat Von D have argued that her use of the photograph as inspiration constitutes fair use and is therefore not an infringement. They further claim that the tattoo was created for a friend and was administered free of charge. However, photographs of the tattoo were subsequently posted to social media, to which they amassed over 100,000 likes which raises arguments as to whether the tattoo has been used to promote Kat Von D’s brand.

The issue of fair use was considered in the US last year over Andy Warhol’s use of Lynn Goldsmith’s photograph of American musician, Prince. The outcome of this case could have significant implications on tattoo artists in the future.

If you have any questions relating to the above, please do not hesitate to contact the team at McDaniels Law on 0191 281 4000 or legal@mcdanielslaw.com.

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