Put yourself in the shoes of someone who receives a new tattoo. Eager to share the design with friends, you start snapping pictures of the fresh body art. You send a text alongside the pictures saying, “Check out my new tattoo!” Ordinarily, one may not question your ownership here. But legal questions may arise in a situation where a videogame company profits off the videogame avatar of a tattooed celebrity like LeBron James. The issue becomes whether the tattoo artist has copyright protections over the art, or does it belong to the individual whose body bears the ink. There is a strong argument to be made that a court must consider the client’s personal autonomy and freedom to the tattooed individual’s own body.
This post was originally published on the Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal website on April 5, 2020. The original post can be accessed via the Archived Link button above.
Sheikh, Habeeb, "Your Body Owns the Tattoo!" (2020). AELJ Blog. 235.