February 27, 2020

Hannah Graves

Ed Sheeran got a tattoo - but didn't pay the artist who designed it

A still from the viral video that features Sheeran's tattoo.
Sheeran showing off his tattoo (image provided by Nemanja Radovanovic)

Maybe you saw the GQ viral video of Ed Sheeran showing off his new tattoo -- a bright red rendering of the Sagrada Familia on his torso? The tattoo became a hot topic of conversation here at Pixsy HQ after we were contacted by the illustrator that created the design.

Who Designed The Tattoo?

The tattoo is of an illustration by Serbian artist, Nemanja Radovanovic. He first found out that Sheeran had gotten a tattoo of his work from a Spanish journalist, Oriol Querol, who saw the video and decided to do some digging.“

At first, I was happy that someone so famous liked my design so much,” says Radovanovic. Querol then revealed he’d been in touch with the tattooist in question, Kevin Paul, who claimed that Sheeran simply brought in an image he found on Google and asked for the tattoo.

Sheeran Found The Image On Google

Illustration of La Sagrada Familia by Nemanja Radovanovic

A still from the viral video that features Sheeran's tattoo.

“When I realized he found the image on Google, I was really disappointed,” says Radovanovic. A pioneer in Serbia’s microstock industry, Radovanovic makes his living from images like the one copied by Sheeran for his tattoo. At Pixsy, we stand up for the rights of artists and creators. We decided to take action and get one of our lawyers’ take on the matter.

Here’s what he had to say:

“If the work was copied (even badly or imperfectly like here), it's an infringement. I believe this case is stronger than it would be if the original work was a photograph because the original work here is simple and very graphic. We have an easier case to be made that the copying was complete. What’s more, it's Sheeran's liability.”It’s an unconventional case. One that has sparked interesting discussions at Pixsy. We’re curious to know what our community thinks about it.

What's your take?

Should Sheeran have paid to use the design for a tattoo? What’s his responsibility here as a fellow artist with such a vast and influential platform? Is it fair that the tattooist benefited from working with Sheeran but the person who created the design did not?

Hannah Graves

As Pixsy's Product Marketing and Community Manager, Hannah is always keen to start conversations and she loves to make connections! With years of experience working with and advocating for visual artists, she is passionate about fair pay for fair work and enjoys helping to get artists paid, and heard.

Start monitoring your images today

Free to sign up

24/7 image monitoring online

Powerful dashboard & tools

Send takedown notices worldwide

Get compensated for stolen images