Maori Angry About Mike Tyson's Tattoo Artist Claiming To Own Maori-Inspired Design

from the ownership-society dept

Well, here's an interesting twist on the lawsuit from Victor Whitmill over the copyright on Mike Tyson's face tattoo. Many people have pointed out that the design appears to be inspired by the Maori, and it appears that Maori tattoo experts think Whitmill doesn't deserve anything at all:
Professor Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, author of Mau Moko: The World of Maori Tattoo, described Mr Whitmill's claims of ownership as insufferable arrogance. "It is astounding that a Pakeha tattooist who inscribes an African American's flesh with what he considers to be a Maori design has the gall to claim that design as his intellectual property," she said.

"The tattooist has never consulted with Maori, has never had experience of Maori and originally and obviously stole the design that he put on Tyson.

"The tattooist has an incredible arrogance to assume he has the intellectual right to claim the design form of an indigenous culture that is not his."
That article notes that a local Parliament member said that it was a "bit rich" for Whitmill to be "moaning about the breach of copyright copied off Maori." Seems like bringing in a Maori tattoo expert would make for an interesting witness if this ever actually goes to trial...

Filed Under: maori, mike tyson, s. victor whitmill, tattoo

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  1. icon
    Mike42 (profile), 26 May 2011 @ 12:42pm


    Alright, here I'm calling "Bullshit" on damn near everyone (Mr Masnick included). Copyright is supposed to be the SPECIFIC EXPRESSION. Period. "Inspired by" is bogus. Medium (in this case, ink on human skin) is immaterial.
    The Warner tat is IDENTICAL to Tyson's tat. The fact that it's a Maori style means nothing. If I make a Celtic chain design, does that mean that I can't copyright that specific work? How about an Egyptian Eye of Horus? "Sorry, that design style is owned by Egypt. No copyright for you!"
    Don't forget, if the artist doesn't own the copyright, he can't make it CC. It's just public domain. Of course, that would instantly make everything public domain, because everything derives from common sources.
    I haven't written anything on this yet, because I tend to think both sides are stupid, unless the artist is suing as a form of advertisement. But it's completely hypocritical for any Techdirt regulars to say that a style is owned by a culture, and therefore any silmilar expression is copyrighted by that culture.
    You may not like copyrights or lawsuits, but keep your arguments clean.

    I think I'm going to make myself a Maori-inspired urinal cake.

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