In a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, photographer Jeffrey Sedlik has accused celebrity tattoo artist Kat Von D of infringing Sedlik's copyright in a photograph of Miles Davis by tattooing a rendition of the work onto a tangible medium of expression -- her customer's arm.
Over the years, tattoo artists have sued brands, ad agencies, movie studios, and video game developers for the unauthorized use of their tattoo designs. But as far as I know, this is the first time a tattoo artist has been sued for using someone else's work as a tattoo design.
It's an aggressive move by one artist against another and raises many interesting questions. Is it fair use? What are Sedlik's damages? Is there an existing licensing market? Is the claim barred by the statute of limitations? Will the customer, who presumably requested (and is now wearing) the design, get pulled into the lawsuit by either party? Will the Miles Davis estate pile on with a right of publicity claim?
I'll keep you posted...