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Tattoos – a prickly copyright dilemma

Recently a federal court in Illinois issued the first ever decision awarding damages against a video game developer for reproducing tattoos in their video game.

The case centered on Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. producing wrestling games which depicted real wrestlers, including exact replicas of the wrestlers’ tattoos. The tattoo artist who inked the tattoos reproduced in the games was awarded only $3,750 in damages.

Tattoo artists, individuals receiving tattoos and corporations reproducing tattoos in games should all take note of this decision and take steps to avoid ending up in litigation themselves.

Tattoo artists should consider including an agreement as to the rights to the tattoo as a preliminary form they have customers sign prior to receiving their tattoo. Such an agreement could assign the rights from the artist to the tattooed individual or create a framework for when the artist should be compensated if the tattoo is used in media.

Celebrities or other public figures who can expect to commercialize their image should consider entering into a similar agreement with their tattoo artist to have their artist assign all rights to the celebrity and waive any moral rights. Such an agreement would help avoid potential costly litigation in the future and ensure that the individual retains full rights to their own image.

Corporations planning on reproducing tattoos should consider including licencing agreements or assignments as part of their due diligence to ensure that they have licenced the right to reproduce the tattoo from the correct party.

Information made available on this website in any form is for information purposes only. It is not, and should not be taken as legal advice. You should not rely on, or take or fail to take any action, based upon this information. Never disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking legal advice because of something you have read on this website. Oyen Wiggs Green & Mutala LLP professionals will be pleased to discuss resolutions to specific legal concerns you may have.

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