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Tattoos, body image and copyright

Written by Sam O'Toole on 12 November 2015

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Copyright is found in artistic works where skill, labour and judgement have gone into the creation irrespective of artistic quality. Thus, the doodle you did earlier would more than likely be found to have copyright subsiding in it.

However, what happens when the artist is drawing his design on your body in the form of a tattoo? Does the copyright stay with the artist or is it transferred?

Unless the copyright found in the tattoo has been transferred by way of release, it is likely that the artist will remain the proprietor of the copyright. However, if it is your design you will likely remain the proprietor of the copyright found in the tattoo, as it was your skill, labour and judgement that went into the creation.

It should be stressed that signing any type of release should be taken with care.

Baz Black is a body modification artist and model, in 2011 he arranged a photo shoot and was handed a release to sign. This release was actually a waiver for iStock, a stock photography company. Baz Black as a signatory to the waiver had signed all of his image rights away, he had effectively lost the copyright in his body and tattoos.

Baz Black’s image has been used to create adverts for all sorts of TV shows, dating websites and even a Cardiff night club. Baz does not make any money from this and the signed release means that the use of his image for commercial benefit is well within the law. 

If you'd like to know more about this article please send an email to Michael Coyle quoting the article title and any questions you might have, alternatively call the office number on 02380 235 979 or send an enquiry through our contact form.

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