Dear Tattooist: Copyright, Copyright, Copyright

the replicant asked:

This may be kind of a dull subject, but how does copyright affect tattoo art? Whether that be factors into the decision whether to reproduce a trademarked character, or how it affects your own creations? I have occasionally remarked that if I were to get a tattoo, I’d ask for the “USDA Inspected” seal, but that seems like it would somehow be illegal.

There’s actually three different copyright issues involved in the tattoo industry: tattooing a copyright/registered trademark or other work of art; using flash that hasn’t been payed for; and one tattooist copying another tattooist’s work.

I’m weaseling out of doing a big write-up on this, as all are discussed here and here in a lot of detail, and by an attorney no less. (Marisa DiMattia Kakoulas also blogs here.)

As for your “USDA Inspected” tattoo idea, I don’t have a problem tattooing trademarked symbols on clients. If someone wants to provide “free advertising” to that corporation/entity for the rest of their life, then so be it. I haven’t heard of any litigation around someone being sued because they had a company’s logo tattooed on their person, at least in the United States.

If you have questions about tattoos: tattoos in general, about getting a tattoo, about giving a tattoo, or anything else related to tattoos, just send me the question via e-mail from my contact page. I will then dedicate an entire post to answering your question.

Until next time...

4 thoughts on “Dear Tattooist: Copyright, Copyright, Copyright

    1. I don’t know how “charged” the issue really is. Most artist will pretty much tattoo most things. Many draw the line at copying someone else’s work. More out of respect for other artists.

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