Photographer sues tattoo artist

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by movingfinger, Feb 16, 2021.

  1. Something new under the sun, for me at least. A reputable photographer is suing a celebrity tattoo artist - both in LA - for creating a tattoo out of one of his photographs of musician Miles Davis. Here is the story: LINK
  2. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Interesting to see how this is resolved - in essence she didn't reproduce the photo, she artfully, skillfully rendered it with a tattoo - similar to painting or drawing. IMO, a separate artistic effort. What matters is what the Court decides.
  3. And the person who received the tattoo can never take their shirt off again!
  4. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    With a superb rendition of Miles? One of the Jazz greats, believe I have everything he did on vinyl. Not into tats, but a fine memorial.
    invisibleflash likes this.
  5. Interesting. Google turns up multiple articles about copyright law in relation to tattoos. In terms of tattoos (and their design) being copyrighted and licensed for reproduction purposes (including reproduction of copyrighted tattoos and their design designs, photos of, videos of, TV shots of, etc.) . And in terms of using copyrighted images/designs in designing or performing tattoos. As far as I can tell from quickly scanning, all court cases so far ended in 'out of court settlements' which I assume is the purpose of this one.

    My guess is that the plaintive has a strong case. Mainly because the tattoo artist widely shared images of herself using the copyrighted photo as a source for the tattoo. And secondly because she and/or her company profited from her use of the photo. Not only in direct payments from the client but indirectly in the 'marketing value' of the social media posts. This weakens the 'fair use' argument. A potential weak point is that the copyright formally applies to 'photographs and negatives' rather than to a 'design' or an 'image'.

    Be interesting to see how this plays out!
  6. I'm jealous. I always look for Miles' albums (the pre-1970 stuff) in used record stores and if they're in decent condition they ain't cheap.
    invisibleflash likes this.
  7. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    I'd class mine as well used - one might have a damaged track or two, but I've had them a long time.
  8. Sufficiently lawyered up, Kat will probably dodge this over what constitutes the difference between between a "copy" and a "likeness" of the photo, i.e., fair use. Besides, there was a large stunning likeness of that photo on a pull-down shop door in Toronto's Kensington Market that was widely admired. Don't recall any issues then or now. Sedlik must be as hungry for attention as he appears to be for a buck. If he wins, whatever damages the court awards may exceed his income from licensing the image. Just a guess...

    Piles of Miles on our shelves, too.
  9. There is, somewhere else, discussion on derivative works which seems to ignore the fact that sometimes derivative works need permission of the original copyright owner, and sometimes they don't. Whether it is a new expression of an idea, or copy of the original expression.

    As well as I understand, in the case of parodies it is usual to ask permission, though most often not required.

    The suit indicates the use of tracing paper to make a more exact copy. I suspect without the exact position
    of the fingers, it would be easier to argue as a new expression of the idea. Though the hair looks a little
    different to me.
  10. I believe she's personally liable if she loses the case, not just her company.
  11. As well as I know, that is possible but not so likely.
    Though more likely might be a settlement.

    IANAL, but as well as I know it is personal liability instead of corporate if there is intentional fraud.
    If, for example, she told clients that she had licensed the image when she actually hadn't.

    I might guess that there is precedent on making paintings, drawings, or other types of art from
    photographs, but I don't know details of that at all.

    As always, copyright is on the expression of the idea, not the idea itself.
    The question, then, is if this is a new expression of the old idea, or not.
  12. I'm not a lawyer. But this is an IP case and she owns the company. So she may not be able to use the corporate shield. Any IP lawyers here?
  13. There are stories about Weird Al parodies, how he always asks permission even though it isn't required,
    and has never been turned down. Having him parody someone's work usually increases interest in
    the work, and not decrease it.

    If the tattoo didn't increase interest in the original photograph, I suspect that the suit did.
    (I wouldn't have known about it.)

    As to the question, it looks like they sued both her and the corporation.
  14. Something really off with this world. Money chase trumps everything nowadays, while money is important part of life and art, we all have bills to pay, but to make accumulation of wealth sole purpose of life is regrettable.

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