Could Having a Tattoo Result in a Lawsuit?

by Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A.
Contact

As football season approaches, it is not surprising that star quarterbacks such as San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick are making the news. I read an article in Forbes magazine about “Questions Concerning Copyright of Athlete Tattoos has Companies Scrambling.” The impetus for the article was a Yahoo! Fantasy Sports advertisement with him in a tattoo artist’s chair with a tablet featuring a fantasy football app.  Who owns the copyright to the designs embodied in the tattoos all over Kaepernick’s toned body?  This issue has clearly been on the minds of intellectual property attorneys and has arisen as a topic for the NFL Players Association according to the Forbes article.

Fans of the Hangover movie may recall a dispute that arose with Mike Tyson’s tattoo artist and Warner Bros. over the use of Tyson’s face tattoo on actor Ed Helms after a wild night in Vegas with Mike Tyson’s tiger ending up in the bathroom suite.  The lawsuit was settled so the merits of the issue were not resolved in the case.   Steve Baird wrote a nice post on the case.  As Steve points out, the tattoo design may also function as a trademark or service mark, much like a logo or visual element of a brand.

Derek Allen wrote a prior blog post about a suit involving a tattoo artist and a video game maker where the game featured a giant lion tattoo on UFC fighter Carlos Condit. When I read the Forbes article, my mind jumped to media darling (and a favorite athlete of mine) David Beckham who promotes many products while shirtless thereby exposing his many tattoos.

Upon further digging, I uncovered the fact that tattoo artist Louis Molloy had threatened to sue Beckham for copyright infringement in 2005 when the tattoos would be prominently featured in the ad.  Beckham may have to start covering up his tattoos in future ads, such as his pose below.

Given the rise in popularity of The Voice host and Maroon Five lead singer Adam Levine, his tattoos may also be at the heart of a future copyright dispute.

The company using an image of a famous tattooed person is not, however, left defenseless.  A “fair use” defense could be raised.  This defense has been discussed in prior DuetsBlog posts (for example, here). In addition, the company could argue that the tattoo has become a part of the celebrity so that the celebrity could license his or her likeness when promoting products (a right of publicity).  Savvy celebrities getting new tattoos may require releases from the tattoo artist in the future.  Further, in situations such as with the Hangover, a parody defense could also be asserted.  Finally, commentators, such as in the Forbes article have raised the issue of whether the tattoo could be considered a work-for-hire and whether such agreements should be entered into with tattoo artists.

What are your thoughts on the topic?

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A. | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A.
Contact
more
less

Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A. on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.
Feedback? Tell us what you think of the new jdsupra.com!