The Kat Von D Trial

The Kat Von D Trial

(Approximately a 2-minute read)

Did you know celebrity tattoo artist Kat Von D was recently taken to court for copyright infringement? 

Imagine innocently tattooing a portrait of an icon on a friend, proudly sharing it online, and devastatingly receiving a notice that you're being sued?

Such was the case of Kat Von D, who was called to trial by photographer Jeff Sedlik. Sedlik owned the copyright to a famous photograph of jazz musician Miles Davis. 

Kat Von D tattooed a reproduction of this image onto a client's body. Then, she posted photos of the tattoo online. Sedlik claimed that Kat Von D had infringed his copyright by creating an unauthorized derivative work based on his photo. 

Why should this matter to you? Because legally, when a photographer takes your photo, they automatically own the copyright to that image. 

This is why it is essential to have a professional photography contract in place, which protects both parties in case of any disputes. A well-drafted contract outlines all the services provided, including usage rights, payment terms, cancellation policies, and other important information.

Relying on verbal agreements or fair usage laws such as parody can leave a lot of gray areas and us astray. When you put things in black and white, you can clearly communicate expectations and help avoid miscommunication, tarnishing relationships and reputations. 

In the Air Force, we would often say, "The name of the game is C.Y.A. Cover Your Ass!" 

Everything from creating a social media account to downloading an update on your phone is accompanied by "terms and conditions," most blindly scroll past and accept. 

I'm no attorney, so I would advise consulting with a local one if you have any questions, but I know enough to tell you that "if it ain't on paper, it doesn't exist."

J "Le Hardy"

Creative Art Director and Photographer


Carrboro/Chapel Hill, NC

Proud member of the Professional Photographers of America

Published 2024 02-23

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