By Jacob Gersham
Randy Harris worries that lawyers are leaving a stain on the tattoo world.
A court tattooist to basketball royalty, Mr. Harris says he has inked dozens of NBA players, drawing everything from a giant tree on Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis, to a beady-eyed owl on Washington Wizards point guard John Wall, to a basketball-toting angel on Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant.
Recently, he has found himself shaking his head at the litigious direction of his image-conscious occupation as the question of who owns a tattoo has become a source of tension.
To him, it’s simple: “Once they paid for the tattoos, man, they paid for it,” he said from his shop south of Atlanta.
Other tattooists say the issue isn’t that clear, especially in the case of sports videogames, which digitally re-create not just the bodies of athletes, but often their body art as well.
Phoenix-based tattoo artist Chris Escobedo took an intellectual property rights training course and in 2012 sued now-bankrupt videogame developer THQ Inc. over a mixed-martial arts game in which one of his tattoos—a large, scowling lion on the right rib cage of Ultimate Fighting Championship star Carlos Condit—makes a cameo appearance.
Last year he settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed sum, he said.
“They’re doing it without consulting the original artists, and that’s what makes it illegal,” he said. “I’m the little guy in this situation.”
Such lawsuits have left a mark. When videogame giant EA Sports, a brand of Electronic Arts Inc., EA +0.11% developed its own fighting game featuring Mr. Condit, which will be released this week, it left out the lion, causing gamers to growl. Electronic Arts declined to comment.
By Deb Yarian
By Marisa Kakoulas
Reblogged from: http://www.needlesandsins.com
Video screen capture above from Yahoo Fantasy Sports: Colin Kaerpernick Ink.
Last week, Forbes published an article entitled “Questions Concerning Copyright Of Athlete Tattoos Has Companies Scrambling.” It’s amazing for me to watch the evolution of the tattoo copyright concept because, when I started writing about it in 2003, people kind of laughed at it: some fellow lawyers told me that tattoos would never get copyright protection and tattooers told me to keep my dirty legal paws off the art form. Not many people took it seriously. Ten years later, people are definitely paying attention, particularly companies and organizations who may risk law suits from tattooers when they wrongfully appropriate a custom tattoo design. And that’s what this Forbes article is about in relation to the National Football League and companies that make money off of athletes outside the field.
“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.”
Getting a release means that the tattoo artist gives up his/her rights to the custom tattoo work (notice, I’m not talking about tattoo flash, which is another issue altogether). Many artists I know would have no problem with this: some may believe that the press generated from the tattoo may bring in more business, some just like seeing their artwork being shown to a wide audience, and others really don’t care what happens with the tattoo when it walks out the studio door.
Lately there has been concern about bloggers taking artists’ pictures without permission. I have been paying strict attention to this. When Frank worked for me at Depot Town there was one blogger, in particular, who was taking some of his images from Facebook and using it in his blog. (I won’t name this particular blog because this isn’t the important part.) Now, there are a few more out there since then… (more…)