Like other forms of visual art, tattoos are eligible for protection under copyright law. To be eligible, the work must be original and fixed in a permanent medium, in this case the human body. To learn more about how copyright law applies to tattoos, contact the Duncan Firm legal team for a consultation.
If you get a tattoo, you are not the owner of the image; the tattoo artist is. This may seem odd, since you literally carry the image around on your body, but it is perfectly consistent with copyright law. The creator of a visual work is its owner; as the client, you are the work’s medium. If you and the artist collaborate on a design, you may both have ownership rights.
However, this means that getting a tattoo of a copyrighted image, character, or logo places you in a risky situation. If you display or publicize your tattoo in a way that devalues a company’s business or prevents the original artist from collecting compensation, you risk being sued for copyright infringement.
If you are a tattoo artist concerned about copyright infringement, the best way to avoid the problem is by creating original designs or introducing original variations on copyrighted material. Copying another tattoo artist’s work without their permission is also considered copyright infringement.
Copyright law is difficult to enforce regarding tattoos because they are difficult to remove and may appear incidentally in photos taken of the client. However, there have been prominent cases where tattoo artists have won compensation when their tattoo is used prominently in an ad campaign without permission, thereby defrauding them of royalties.
As visual artists, tattoo artists should be intimately familiar with how copyright law applies to their profession. If you need more information on copyright infringement, or you have a potential legal matter involving tattoos, the team at Duncan Firm can help.