Kat Von D Claims Miles Davis Tattoo Is ‘Honest Use’ at Peculiar Copyright Trial

Kat Von D Claims Miles Davis Tattoo Is ‘Honest Use’ at Peculiar Copyright Trial

Superstar tattoo artist Kat Von D seemed in a Los Angeles federal court docket Tuesday to combat claims she took a photographer’s “iconic” portrait of jazz legend Miles Davis and tattooed it on a pal with out right kind credit score or reimbursement.

The previous celebrity of truth displays Miami Ink and LA Ink sat earlier than a jury as her attorney mentioned in his opening commentary that Von D best used the well-known picture for “inspiration” as she created a “totally other” paintings on her pal’s arm totally free seven years in the past.

The 1989 picture on the heart of the trial, created via plaintiff Jeffrey Sedlik, depicts jazz legend Miles Davis staring without delay into the digital camera lens whilst protecting a finger to his lips in what Sedlik described Tuesday as a “shhh” gesture. It used to be first revealed at the duvet of JAZZIZ mag in August 1989 and registered with the US Copyright Place of job in 1994.

“You’re going to see that there are lots of variations,” Von D’s attorney Allen B. Grodsky informed the jurors as he laid out her protection. He pointed to “variations within the place and form of shadows, distinction in the usage of mild, distinction within the coiffure, variations within the form and rendering of the eyes.” He mentioned Von D’s tattoo had no jacket and no black background. “Kat Von D’s interpretation of Miles Davis had a sentiment that used to be extra despair than Mr. Sedlik’s,” her legal professional argued. “And also you’ll see that it has motion that’s now not present in his. Kat Von D didn’t try to monetize the tattoo in any respect. She didn’t make pictures of prints that she bought. She didn’t promote tee shirts or mugs. She didn’t promote merchandise in any respect.”

Sedlik took the witness stand first, spending greater than an hour strolling thru his credentials. The pro photographer and school professor described attesting earlier than Congress about artists’ rights and founding a non-profit interested by world licensing requirements. He mentioned he took 3 years to devise the {photograph} of Davis, drawing sketches and consulting with the trumpet grasp himself.

“I knew he performed quietly to get audiences to lean in and relish each and every be aware,” Sedlik testified, explaining how he landed at the “shhh” gesture. “I went in and positioned his hands precisely in that arc to constitute musical notation. I used to be construction subliminal issues in.”

Sedlik first filed his lawsuit 3 years in the past, alleging Von D illegally reproduced his copyrighted picture and used it to advertise her emblem thru social media posts on Instagram, Fb, and YouTube that garnered greater than 100,000 likes around the platforms. The lawsuit contains hyperlinks to quite a lot of social media posts appearing Von D operating at the tattoo on her pal Blake Farmer’s arm just about seven years in the past. One publish dated March 18, 2017, (that used to be nonetheless energetic on Von D’s account Tuesday) displays her making use of ink to Farmer’s arm with a published replica of Sedlik’s picture affixed to a wall beside her.

“Can’t imagine that is first time I’ve gotten to tattoo a portrait of #MilesDavis!,” her captions reads. “Thanks, Blake for letting me tattoo you!” Consistent with Sedlik, the publish depicts Von D “making an attempt to exactly reflect each and every side of the Iconic Miles Davis portrait within the type of a tattoo.”

Jurors now listening to the case must come to a decision whether or not Von D’s copy falls beneath the “truthful use” doctrine that permits restricted use of copyrighted subject matter with out permission. Inventive representations of copyrighted paintings will also be secure via truthful use in the event that they “develop into” the topic paintings into one thing new, similar to a parody, critique, or information file.

In his testimony Tuesday, Sedlik mentioned he actively defends the copyright for his Davis picture, even in relation to tattoos. When he noticed a prior symbol of a tattoo equivalent to his picture again in 2014, he reached out to the person and won a “respectful” answer, he testified. The person got rid of the picture from social media and apologized, main Sedlik to grant him a retroactive license for no cash to hide the prior incident, he mentioned. Sedlik considered it as an “tutorial alternative,” he mentioned.

With Von D, the previous truth TV celebrity claims that the tattoo she created is “transformative” sufficient to qualify as truthful use.


Courts have battled over the problem of truthful use for many years. Its software used to be the topic of a U.S. Perfect Court docket determination closing 12 months that used to be in large part interpreted as an edict making it more difficult to turn out truthful use. Within the 2023 case, the justices dominated that Andy Warhol’s portray of celebrity musician Prince violated the copyright of the Lynn Goldsmith picture it used to be according to. The verdict allowed Goldsmith’s declare towards Warhol’s property to continue. After the Warhol ruling, the pass judgement on now presiding over Sedlik’s case allowed the photographer’s lawsuit to continue over Von D’s objections and claims of truthful use.

The case is about to renew Wednesday. Von D is predicted to testify.