Tattoos are very popular these days. More and more people are having unique artwork placed on their bodies in a variety of shapes, colors and sizes. Many top athletes also have such artwork on their bodies, think especially famous soccer players. There are many video games today in which these top athletes are characters. The characters in a video game are made as realistic as possible, this includes their tattoos being adopted by the game. However, this could violate the tattoo artist’s copyright.
People are quick to think that you have full control over your own tattoo; after all, you paid for it. This, unfortunately, is not the case. Indeed, the United States copyright office says, “Any creative illustration on a tangible medium is eligible for copyright. So this includes tattoos on a person’s skin. This is not a problem if the tattoo is not imitated for commercial purposes, but video games are developed for profit. Given the tattoo artist owns the copyright over their own designs and the games make money from these designs, there is copyright.
There are already numerous cases pending in America against game developers brought by tattoo artists who believe their copyrights are being infringed. For example, Mike Tyson’s tattoo artist has sued Warner Bros entertainment for using his design in: ‘The Hangover part 2’. This one believes that even though the tattoo is on Mike Tyson’s face, others do not have the right to copy this design and use it in films, for example.
So whether top athletes’ tattoos will still be displayed in video games will depend on the outcome of these cases. There are two solutions one can offer to this problem. The first is that one would buy the licenses of the tattooists; unfortunately, this is quite costly. A second solution would be for the tattoos to be modified a bit in the games.
The situation is different if the customer has their own design placed and hires the tattoo artist, as it were, to tattoo it. Article 1: “Copyright law gives the creator of a work of literature, science or art the exclusive right to publish and multiply it. Therefore, if the design comes from the artist himself, he holds the copyright.
Will tattoo artists soon have to place a copyright notice © next to their work to claim copyright? Another option is to have a contract signed in advance by the tattoo artist , waiving the copyright. Conversely, of course, the artist can also draw up a contract to establish copyrights. This could avoid future lawsuits. Regardless, other regulations will be developed to fill these deficiencies.