Law Office of Jason H. Rosenblum, PLLC

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Tattoos, Copyright, and You **Attorney Advertising**

You’re probably familiar with the concept of copyright protection. After all, it’s the reason you can’t just right click on an image in a Google search and upload it to your own site.

But did you know that tattoos can also be protected by copyright law? That’s right—if you’ve got a tattoo that was created by an artist, chances are it’s copyrighted. In the past few years there have been some celebrity tattoos at the center of a few cases.

What does that mean for you? If you’re thinking about getting a tattoo, it’s important to understand how copyright law may impact your legal rights.

For example, let’s say you get a unique piece of art created exclusively by Artist A on your shoulder. A few years down the road, you decide that you want to add to the tattoo by having Artist B change the concept a bit and modify Artist A’s original design. Is that legal?

The answer is maybe. It depends on whether or not Artist A still owns the copyright to the tattoo. If they do, then they have the exclusive right to control how their works are used—which would include adding new elements to the original art. However, if Artist A has sold or assigned their copyright to someone else (for example, the tattoo shop where you got inked, or even over to you), then Artist B may be able to modify the design without infringement.

Best course of action would be to get all rights in the artwork assigned over to you from the tattoo artist. If you are not sure if the copyright was transferred to you, it might be best to get permission before making any changes, just to be on the safe side. Many tattoo artists, especially those who specialize in inking unique works of art are familiar with their rights and have taken the time to federally register their designs. If you do not investigate these ownership issues, it could result in legal disputes.

So, there you have it—tattoos can indeed be protected by copyright law. If you’re thinking about getting inked, make sure you understand your legal rights (and obligations) before moving forward. And if you’re planning on adding to an existing tattoo, it’s always best to get permission from the original artist first. Even better obtain an assignment of the copyright from the artist at the time they ink you, when you are paying them.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.