The decision to get a tattoo and what this tattoo will be is always personal.
Weighing the pros and cons of this or that design is always a big concern at the beginning: What motive would I want to permanently have on my skin? Will I still be found of it in many years from now?
In addition to all these questions, you should also think about the copyrights: Because yes, there are copyrights for tattoos as well.
Not only in literature and music does law preserve the intellectual property of an artist, and with tattoos this seems to be even more complicated than it appears.
Behind each design there is an artist who has created something unique and owns the copyright of it.
By getting a tattoo the tattooed person not bought the rights to this design. The tattoo remains the intellectual property of the artist. Even the tattoo artist has these rights only when he designed it himself.
In this case, the tattoo artist gives the costumer who is getting tattooed the right to use this design. But it’s all about private usage! Commercial use is excluded unless the artist says it otherwise. If the client has designed his own tattoo together along with the artist, then both tattoo artist and tattooed person, have the copyrights over it.
Here is something almost no one knows: If a tattoo will be used commercially, it requires an explicit consent of the artist. If the artist refuses to consent it, a lawsuit is virtually applicable.
A good example of it, it’s the case of David Beckham: The former football player wanted to use one of his tattoos for an advertising campaign.
His tattoo artist, who retains the intellectual property of his tattoo, was reluctant to allow it. It would have been a lot of money that David Beckham would have earned on the campaign, but he would have used the property of another, without having the copyright or its approval. The tattoo artist refused to give his consent and the planned advertising campaign turned into untold history.
But and how does it looks like with today’s personal photos on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and all the social media? It is quite normal that the person proudly wants to present his new tattoo to the world.
As mentioned above, the costumer owns the personal rights of his tattoos and therefor there are no problems to post these photos on the Internet without fearing a lawsuit. Although, it’s always nice to tell who is the artist behind it.
Papaya Jack talked with many tattoo artists and all of them confirmed to be victim of copycats and to have at least one tattoo or design stolen.
Nevertheless they still use the social media for posting their work and “Wanna Dos”, as stated Pam Fatale, neo traditional artist based in Augsburg, Germany: “ It is easier and cheaper to promote yourself this way. You reach more people using Instagram than if you post it to your website. Everybody is on Facebook! You get to have likes even from people in other continents.”
But if you are an artist, what can be done to avoid having your work stolen?
Dasier Navarro gives the tip: “I have always posted pictures of my drawings on the internet in order to find people interested in getting them tattooed. I always try to take pictures in different angles, to avoid photos from above. Posting pictures at angles that make it difficult to copy helps discourage who wants to steal your idea.”
Using watermarks and not uploading pictures with high resolution are also some ways to make it harder for copycats.
And as a costumer you should never ask for an artist to reproduce a design from somebody else! And asking him to tattoo the same tattoo you’ve seen on the internet is no goal at all!
A tattoo is unique. It should be personal and original. Imagine seeing that exactly one special tattoo with a personal meaning that you chose very carefully, being carried by some random person on the streets. It gets even worst if the copy was done by some cheap scratcher and looks like crap.
The fact is if you decide to go for an existing design or use an existing artistic work such as a painting or a draw, it is always advisable to talk with the author and ask for permission.
And to use an already tattooed design shouldn’t even be taken in consideration.
The significant change of an existing design and the appeal to the artistic freedom is the only way not to violate the copyright, and to avoid having a twin tattoo with some stranger around the world.
But be aware: to change means to create something new that only remembers the original. Excessive similarities may nevertheless end in trouble.
Our advice: It is good to let yourself inspire with other people’s work but to be creative is always better.