Who Owns Your Tattoo?

In a meeting with global agency holding company legal reps yesterday the rights issue around tattoos became a great conversation topic.

I have previously, do know and will, in the future, work with athletes. These athletes are becoming more and more A-list celebrities and on camera more than ever. And even more relevant, they are part of the marketing world as endorsers and spokespeople.

This topic was not even a conversation 10 years ago. Tattoos were related to thugs and those thugs would never help a brand appeal to their target market. Not the case any longer. Tattoos have gone from prison to artwork in no time and have become mainstream.

Imagine if you hire an artist to paint you a picture. You love her style and really have no specifics other than she do it. She comes up with the subject matter, layout, size, etc. She paints away and is very happy with it. You arrive at the studio and love it, also. And when it’s on your wall at home all your friends are amazed and would love to hang one on their wall. So you have it scanned and print a version for them. That, legally, crossed the line. Even though you paid her to do this work and you own the paining the artist owns the intellectual property or the creative rights to the painting.

This NPR article talks about Colin Kaepernick and his tattoos. And how The wildy-popular Madden game has finally decided to add his ink, and only his, because they had right to do so. The artist that designed, illustrated and then tattooed him signed away the right to Colin.

The fact is that with any form of art – paintings, photos, sculptures, and yes, tattoos, you may own the piece but you don’t own the right to creative.

Next-level stuff now includes landmarks. If I post a pic of the Eiffel Tower I may be in the wrong. This article from the Digital Trends blog says so. Rule of thumb is that if it’s more than 15% of the skyline it may violate copyright laws.

The bottom line is that if you or your clients plan to use their likeness to make money and any of this is in question you need to consider the rights of ownership.

Who Owns Your Tattoo?