Thursday, October 24, 2013
Questions Concerning Copyright Of Athlete Tattoos Has Companies Scrambling; Forbes, 8/14/13
Darren Heitner, Forbes; Questions Concerning Copyright Of Athlete Tattoos Has Companies Scrambling: "The ink issue is over who owns the copyright to the images depicted by the tattoos emblazoned on athletes’ bodies. According to sources speaking to FORBES on condition of anonymity, the issue of copyright ownership concerning tattoos on football players has very recently been labeled as a pressing issue by the NFL Players Association. One source said, “I don’t blame [the NFLPA], but they should have been on top of it earlier. It was something that was mentioned at the NFL Combine — that was the first I had ever heard them mention anything on the issue of tattoos. They advised agents to tell their players that when they get tattoos going forward they should get a release from the tattoo artist and if they can track down their former artists, they should get a release.” While it is just now garnering attention within the world of sports, copyright ownership of body ink was the subject of a contentious lawsuit between S. Victor Whitmill and Warner Bros. when the film studio placed a tattoo on the face of actor Ed Helms in “The Hangover Part 2″ that mirrored the popular tattoo Whitmill designed for the face of former undisputed heavyweight boxing champion of the world Mike Tyson. Before the case settled out of court, Whitmill alleged that he owned the copyright to the design of the face tattoo. This raised the question: does the person who receives a tattoo own the images that are tattooed on him or is the copyright owned by the tattoo artist? It is a question that has not been ruled upon by the U.S. Supreme Court... The question of whether a tattoo even warrants copyright protection is answered by Jeffrey Harrison, University of Florida Levin College of Law professor of Copyright. ”If it is copyrightable on paper, it’s similarly copyrightable on any medium that lasts, including skin,” said Harrison to FORBES."