Who Owns a Tattoo?

When a tattoo is put on a person, who really owns that tatoo? The artist or the person who is “wearing” it? Well, maybe you should ask Rasheed Wallace:

A Portland man who put a tattoo on the right arm of Detroit Piston Rasheed Wallace is suing to stop the forward from displaying the work in ads for Nike basketball shoes.

Matthew Reed from TigerLilly Tattoo and DesignWorks claims he owns the copyright for the design of the tattoo. Reed’s lawsuit wants the Nike ad featuring Wallace and the tattoo off the air and the Internet, as well as damages.

…Wallace has one of the more distinctive tattoos in the NBA…

…But Reed claims he became aware last year of a Nike ad that centers on the tattoo and its creation. He claims the ad violates the copyright he holds to “the Egyptian Family Pencil Drawing”…

…According to the suit, Wallace told Nike…either that he owned the intellectual property rights to the tattoo image or shared it with Reed. If a court determines that Reed and Wallace share ownership, Reed says he is entitled to a portion of the money Wallace was paid for the ad.

The merits of Reed’s suit have yet to be decided. But under intellectual property law, buying an image doesn’t necessarily mean you can do whatever you want with it.

“When you buy a painting, then you own the painting. But if you want to reproduce the painting in a book, if you want to have it be the central part of a commercial, then you have to pay a licensing fee,” said Lydia Loren, a Lewis & Clark Law School professor who teaches intellectual property law.

I know because theDesignWeblog told me so.

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