A lawsuit created a precedent that people may not have the rights to depict the tattoos on their body. The New York state High Court has ruled in the case. The decision will change the way tattoos are depicted in the media and may even affect the way people view the tattoos more widely.
This decision by the New York State Court of Appeals is a landmark in the field. Now people with tattoos will have to have a license to get and pose for photos with their body art. The decision came from a complaint filed by three plaintiffs who wished to remove their tattoos from the Internet and to have them not be available to anyone but themselves and their own personal friends.
The plaintiffs, who used the alias “Xan”, are both former professional skaters who had tattoos on their bodies to represent themselves. All three men had their tattoos removed, as they wished, and now all three face a potential $250,000 fine and probation.
The plaintiffs wanted the court to order the defendants to remove their tattoos. However, the defendants argued that removing the tattoos is what artists and photographers do for their art. They stated that the plaintiffs should “be subject to the same rules that artists and sculptors are subject to for depicting a nude breast or a tattoo of their choice.”
The defendants said that “artists and graphic artists depict artworks and that all artists and graphic artists are subject to the same laws.” They argued the plaintiffs do not have any right to a copyright or trademark, and therefore have no rights to their own body art. However, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, saying that the plaintiffs, in taking the photo, would be putting themselves in violation of state law.
“The court is satisfied from the documents in this case that the work at issue is of a piece or art work rather than a photo. It is therefore beyond the scope of their copyright or trademark rights to determine the nature of the defendant’s work. Consequently, the only issue is whether the defendants’ photograph is a copyright or a trademark work (within the meaning of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §§ 101, et. seq., the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1114, and the New York State law regarding unregistered and unregistered trade-marks), and whether the plaintiffs have standing to sue for such infringement.”
This means that if the plaintiffs wish to