Owning One’s Ink

Lately there has been a debate on the copyright of tattoos that are on the bodies of professional athletes. These tattoos are a form of artwork that are influenced by athletes but are created and produced by tattoo artists. Who should own the rights to the ideas and expressions that are depicted in a tattoo on one’s body? In the news article, Questions Concerning Copyright of Athlete Tattoos Has Companies Scrambling, there are different professional athletes that are mentioned about their tattoos, and how their ink affects a certain liability to their own personal image and the organizations they are associated with.

The article tries to bring about a compromise to the problem at stake by making athletes require a release that is agreed upon by the artist of the tattoo. This would in fact give the copyright ownership to the athlete and not the tattoo artist. Lessig expresses, “These are ordinary and reasonable limits on the creative process, made necessary by a system of copyright law”, I believe this gives notion to the intellectual property through a form of impression that represents the creativity that is found in those athletes that receive the tattoo. If you were to think about it, the athlete went to the tattoo artist with the plan of getting ink put on their body. This motive to get a tattoo surely comes with some sort of idea that is possessed by the athlete of what he would like the tattoo to be representing on his body. So should the copyright of the tattoo be owned by the person who possessed the concept of what the ink would demonstrate, or should it be owned by the person that actually manufactured the art within tattoo? “For Books are
not absolutely dead things, but doe contain a potencie of life in them to be as active
as that soule was whose progeny they are”, these words presented by John Milton create the assumption that when something is produced is in fact real and it belongs to the one that created it. The initial creation of this thing first came from the person that possessed the concept of its future realization. They then took the additional step in making it tangible by going through the process of producing its existence in this world. For this thing to come to life it essentially had an idea of its conception in which it would exist, and the person that influenced this idea must own its right of reality.

The topic of owning the copyright of actual tattoos has not came about within our legal system. Currently there is not one law put in place that grants the copyright of a tattoo to one person, but there have been different court cases that present similar oppositions to the topic of copyrighting tattoos. The article questions the fact that owning the copyright of a tattoo could change how an athlete displays his body in public. I believe this notion of copyrighting a person’s tattoo brings about the stake of owning an idealistic image that is portrayed through the use of ink on one’s body. What I truly mean is the person who possesses the tattoo on their skin owns something that presents who they are, or what they believe. Kant states, “This enlightenment requires nothing but freedom–and the most innocent of all that may be called “freedom”: freedom to make public use of one’s reason in all matters”, in which I believe the intellectual property that is being presented is by the ability to express representation of one’s reason on their body.

Something to leave you pondering: What if the Supreme Court granted athletes with the copyrights of their tattoos, and later on an athlete sells the copyrights of his tattoos to a fan. Does this fan hold the right to supervise and contract with sporting entertainment businesses about how and when the tattoos on the athlete can be presented in public?



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