Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Tatto Artist Sues NBA For Showing His Artwork Without Compensation

from the no,-seriously dept

The examples of ridiculous misuses of intellectual property law seem to be coming fast and furious these days. The latest is that a tattoo artist who did the tattoo on one player's arm is suing the NBA, claiming a violation of his copyright in having the tattoo seen in some commercials. This is, obviously, pure greed, rather than any legitimate copyright claim. The guy sold the tattoo to the player who now has the right to display it wherever and however he wants. Next thing you know, artists will sell you a painting, but demand you pay them a fee every time anyone looks at it. Unfortunately, that seems to be exactly how some in the entertainment industry are trying to set things up when it comes to digital content -- but not everyone realize that the digital copyright questions are often just as outrageous as these analog examples.

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  • identicon
    John, 17 Feb 2005 @ 11:44am

    It's Routine

    It's routine for an artist to sell a painting, but retain the copyright. Typically, this means you can't reproduce the artwork without permission, but I am aware of several instances where the display and use of the art was severely limited by the artist, even though the painting was sold. I wonder if the tattoo artist here will make the same argument?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      JoeBob, 17 Feb 2005 @ 12:08pm

      Re: It's Routine

      Option 1) Let the market sort it out. Let those artists who are overly restrictive attempt to compete with those who are not (given equal talent, my guess is more value will be created by the less restrictive artist)

      Option 2) Legislate it to death. Create laws even *more* descriptive and definitive than what we have today.

      Option 3) Get reasonable people in the Judicial branch to throw out stupid lawsuits like this (I bet the NBA player never signed a copyright agreement when the "art" was purchased) *and* charge the plaintiff some kind of fee for needlessly tying up the system.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2005 @ 1:29pm

    Don't be so sure about the copyright issues

    As previous poster has mentioned, right to possess doesn't neccesarily mean that person has all the copyrights to something.

    The other issue is whether a tattoo is considered commissioned art. If I commission you to create a piece of art, the artist retains all rights to the art unless otherwise specified.

    I think this is a good thing. I like to see (ab)users of copyright like the NBA get stung by it a little bit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      JoeBob, 17 Feb 2005 @ 8:02pm

      Re: Don't be so sure about the copyright issues

      Um, no. If it's *commissioned* art (X pays Y in advance to create it), the copyright goes to the person who paid for it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bill, 18 Feb 2005 @ 12:20pm

    I guess it's not being considered

    that the artist might be making a point. How many times have groups like the NBA, NFL, etc. moved to shut down people obviously not infringing on their copyright? In Vegas this year, the NFL warned the casinos not to host any "SuperBowl" parties because the NFL owns the trademark. They could host a "Big Game" party or a "Football Championship" party but not a SuperBowl party. Pretty lame, right? Well, maybe the artist is trying to stick it to the man by showing them that they need to play by the same rules. What if every artist demanded royalties for every pro player's tattoo that showed up on an NBA broadcast?

    Sometimes the best way to demonstrate the absurdity of a law is to use it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    drteknikal (profile), 18 Feb 2005 @ 2:56pm

    compensated endorsement

    My understanding was that the artist had done it at a much lower than usual rate, based on anticipated exposure the artwork would receive. Banking on future revenue is one thing, claiming that the bearer can't show it off on tv is another.

    Presumably, if I got a copyrighted tat, I'd have just about all rights except to use it commercially. You could argue that featuring it in advertising would be commercial use. But since the original intent appears to have been to encourage commercial use to generate exposure for the artist, you'd think that right was implied.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tatoo Tony, 18 Feb 2005 @ 9:23pm

    Its your after you pay me

    Hey, lets get serious for a minute.

    I tatoo people all day long. I have a whole PILE of books filled with pictures of tatoos that I have done, along with other "skin ink magicians".

    I also have books filled with illustrations.

    What is the point? To give the customers an idea of what can be done.

    Do I own the copyrights for the tatoo? NO.
    Do I own the copyrights for the images I am basing my work on? NO

    Get serious.

    Copyrighting a tatoo is stupid. Did the guy put a little (c) in the tatoo? Does the "artist" have the right to REMOVE the tatoo?


    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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