Copyright Infringement Claims for Tattoos?

January 1, 2014

Eric Vaughn-Flam Esq., the General Counsel for the Internationalist, shares the association’s legal perspectives and opinions for today’s ever changing global advertising landscape.

By Eric Vaughn-Flam Esq. This article was written with the assistance of Benjamin Dottino, J.D. candidate.

One might think we own an unfettered right to our own skin. But when people get tattoos, they are having an artist create a copyrightable work on their face, body, and limbs. This poses a problem when tattooed people are featured in advertising and have not secured rights to the tattoos. Amazingly, tattoo artists are increasingly filing suit for copyright infringement against companies that feature their handiwork on celebrities and athletes without first obtaining permission. The copyright requirement of fixation in a tangible medium includes an artwork created on a human canvas, and thus is an enforceable copyright. When people with tattoos are featured in advertising, advertisers need to secure the rights to the tattoos as well.

(Please see our "Also See" section to the right for the full PDF of this article.)


"Copyright Infringement Claims for Tattoos?" Eric Vaughn-Flam Esq., General Counsel, The Internationalist. The Internationalist. Number 67, 2014.