Tattoo Blog

Art that adorns the flesh…

Copyright Copycats.

February 8th, 2009 by

For those of us in the tattoo community there is no doubt that regardless of the many uses and applications that tattoo has lent itself to, in the end tattoo is all about art. As an art this sometimes brings up a topic that gets rather sticky from time to time. This is a topic that goes with the territory on all art forms, the copyright.

The issue of copyright and tattooing is not a new one by any means, and for the better part has been all but downright unenforceable in the field. Just look at the number of Disney, and Loony Tunes characters that have graced the bodies of countless patrons. Not to mention the huge amounts of cool flash that has been copied out of tattoo magazines and brought into the shops to have done.

The reason I bring this up is because of our lawsuit crazy culture. Folks have successfully sued McDonalds just because they got careless with a cup of coffee and spilled it on their own laps, for Christ’s sake. The number of seemingly frivolous lawsuits continues to grow everyday, and with the current economic crunch I have no doubt that the trend will grow even more. Just watch the glass toilet for any length of time and you’re sure to see a class action suit from the offices of James Sokolove, or some other ambulance chaser.

So far the tattoo community has been very mature about issues such as this, and I hope we continue to do so. The last thing any of us need is everybody running around trying to make a fast buck off of each other and making the lawyers even richer than they already are.

Still there are some cases where copyright can be a good thing. Take the case of David Gonzales for instance. A company that makes temporary tattoos had ripped off David’s distinctive style to use for their fake tats. David promptly sued the company and won. Note that although the themes they ripped off were pretty generic as far as tattooing goes, what the ripped off was David’s distinctive artistic style. In this case I can see a reason.

Elayne Angel, the master piercer and owner of Rings of Desire, has her unique angel wings registered as a trademark; much in the same way that Nike has their swoop. She even has the ® placed at the tip of her wings. Does this mean that she is out to sue the pants off of anyone else who might want a set of wings too? Hell no! She did it so that others couldn’t use her distinctive image to promote their services above hers.

Incidentally Elayne has never sued anyone over her wings, but she has had call to phone and ask for a rival shop to not use her image in their TV commercials. They did as she asked.

It would seem that there could be good reasons for an artist, or a collector to copyright an original piece of work. I personally refused to copy anyone’s custom work onto someone else, and most artists will do the same if they know it’s a custom piece that belongs to someone else. That’s just professional courtesy.

However if anyone out there reading this would like to have a custom bit of art placed under a copyright I would suggest taking a look at the copyright laws. That way you know exactly what it takes, and what your rights are once it’s done.

Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.