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Is It Infringement To Get Your Favorite Sports Team Logo Tattooed On Your Body?

from the maybe... dept

Interesting timing. Just after we were discussing the copyright implications of tattoos, jprlk points us to a recent issue of The Straight Dope, in which Cecil Adams takes on the question of the legality of tattooing your favorite sports team logo on your body somewhere. He goes over both the trademark side and the copyright side. There's no trademark issue (in most cases) because there's no "use in commerce," which is required for a trademark infringement situation. There may be a copyright issue, but Adams suggests teams would be crazy to go down that route so it's probably not an issue:
Copyright violation is an easier case to make. (Some contend a fan tattoo would constitute fair use, but I have my doubts.) The main thing is, what team or league would bother? They'd look like bullies, your pockets probably aren't that deep, and it's not like a judge is going to order you to have the tattoo lasered off. Then again, we're talking about professional sports, where conventional logic is out the window.
He's right about that last comment. After all, just look at the Washington Redskins, who have sued fans and threatened bloggers. While he hasn't done it yet, it would not surprise me to see Dan Snyder eventually go so far as to sue a fan for having a Redskins tattoo without paying him for the privilege of promoting the team.
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Filed Under: copyright, tattoo, trademark


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  1. icon
    Comboman (profile), 14 Apr 2011 @ 4:59am

    Go after tattoo artists, not fans

    The team owners would be a lot more likely to go after the tattoo artists than the fans for PR reasons (suing fans looks bad), legal reasons (fewer people to sue) and financial reasons (tattoo businesses have deeper pockets than individual fans). They could even offer tattoo artists an option to avoid getting sued by purchasing a license to reproduce the logos (just like a cap or t-shirt manufacturer would) and create a whole new revenue stream. I believe a similar setup currently exists for cake decorators who want to produce cakes in the likeness of copyrighted characters (Disney, etc) despite the fact that a cake is not exactly a "fixed medium".

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