Jury Rules in Favor of Kat Von D in Miles Davis Tattoo Copyright Case

Jury Rules in Favor of Kat Von D in Miles Davis Tattoo Copyright Case


On January 26th, 2024, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, celebrity tattoo artist Kat Von D was found not to be liable on claims that she infringed the copyright of a photo of jazz legend Miles Davis. This verdict marks the conclusion of a trial where photographer Jeffrey B. Sedlik faced off against Kat Von D and her businesses

The dispute centered around a portrait tattoo of Miles Davis inked by Kat Von D. Sedlik, a renowned photographer and professor, claimed that Kat Von D reproduced elements of his iconic 1989 photographic portrait of Miles Davis without his permission. Additionally, Sedlik asserted that Kat Von D’s social media posts showcasing the tattoo further infringed upon those rights by featuring the original photo in the background

Both sides presented compelling arguments regarding copyright infringement and fair use during the trial. Sedlik argued that Kat Von D’s tattoo was substantially similar to his original work and highlighted the commercial nature of Kat Von D’s social media posts. Kat Von D asserted that the tattoo and social media content was not substantially similar to Sedlik’s photo and qualified for protection under the fair use doctrine. The fair use doctrine permits the unauthorized use of copyrighted material for specific purposes. Fair use is determined by weighing factors such as the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion used, and the effect on the potential market for the copyrighted work

Ultimately, the jury sided with Kat Von D, concluding that the tattoo and social media posts did not constitute copyright infringement. The jury assessed that the tattoo was not substantially similar to Sedlik’s photo of Davis and that the social media posts were protected by fair use

In response to the verdict, Kat Von D expressed relief, stating that the experience had left her reconsidering her future in tattooing. Meanwhile, Sedlik’s attorney admitted disappointment, maintaining that this case was about protecting artists’ work and ensuring that they are duly compensated for their creative endeavors

Sedlik is represented by Robert E. Allen, Lara A. Petersen and Jason C. Linger of Glaser Weil Fink Howard Jordan & Shapiro LLP

Von Drachenberg is represented by Allen B. Grodsky and Tim B. Henderson of Grodsky Olecki & Puritsky LLP

The case is Sedik v. Von Drachenberg, case number 2:21cv01102, in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

*Lowe & Associates (The Firm) is a boutique entertainment and business law firm located in Beverly Hills, California. The firm has extensive experience handling cases involving copyright law, having provided topquality legal services to its clients since 1991. The Firm is recognized for its many achievements, including successfully litigating many highprofile cases

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