How much control do you really have over your ink?

So I found this crazy interesting article about a tattoo artist named Christopher Escobedo who took legal action against the video game UFC Undisputed because he had tattooed a large lion on a fighters chest and the tattoo was featured on the video game’s cover. The legal dispute was based around the idea that Escobedo felt that his art was being used without his permission. There were many similar cases between companies and tattoo artists but, often times, the artists are paid off or the case is settled before the parties can make it to court.

I think this is a legitimate case. The artist is merely asking for his right to claim the work as his own. He wants the video game company to give him credit for his artwork. I can see how this seems to be just a scam to get cash because he does mention later that if a music artist can get a large sum of money for allowing the video game to use their song but I also feel that it’s almost like great exposure for the tattoo artist. It is still his artwork though. He still created the piece and therefore should receive some sort of credit or at least have been notified and asked about the use of the art. Milton said, “That no Book, pamphlet, or paper shall be henceforth printed, unlesse the same be first approv’d and licenc’t by such, or at least one of such as shall be thereto appointed.” (Milton).  I believe the artist should have been contacted.

That being said, I can see how the argument can be seen as a bit frivolous. The article talks about asking professional athletes to have their tattoo artists to sign a waiver that allows them to be seen in advertisements or video games (etc.) without having to place a disclaimer as to who created the artwork on their body. Most tattoo artists will “sign” their original artwork on a person. They include a small signature with their work. I believe that allowing your artwork to be seen with your signature could possibly be an inspiration to another aspiring artist. Lawrence Lessig says “The argument…is that always and everywhere, free resources have been crucial to innovation and creativity; that without them, creativity is crippled.” (Lessig, 28). The showing of his art could influence another person.

Kant says, “a large degree of civic freedom appears to be of advantage to the intellectual freedom of the people, yet at the same time it establishes insurmountable barriers.” (Kant).  Saying that an artwork form cannot be seen unless the artist deems it allowable is the right of the artist yet by saying that, he is severely limiting the people that he can reach with his art.

I think the argument is valid because it is his work but I do feel that his case is not about his art but rather about compensation for free publicity.




3 thoughts on “How much control do you really have over your ink?

  1. Katie,

    This is really good, and it’s *very* close to passing. The only thing is: you forgot to cite Milton! You need to get that in there. Bottom line: good work so far, but you need to go back to the course readings and really think about how the ideas of “freedom” expressed by these various writers relate to your example.

    You have until Sept 31 to complete revisions, but I might want to you complete your revisions well in advance of that date.


    • Oops! Sorry I missed that! In my defense, you could have said more about how these two different kinds of attribution relate or differ — Milton is concerned with tracing libel and identifying malefactors, not defending IP — so it was easy to miss. Still, you’re right. I was going through it too quickly. Sorry!

      Grade: S


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