Tattoo Copyrights

Tattoo Copyrights

Can I Copyright my Tattoo?

A while back someone asked me about writing a blog post on copyright law and tattoos. After thinking about it, I realized that the issue is one that provides a great opportunity to illustrate (no pun intended) some core concepts about copyright law that are often misunderstood by the general public and sometimes by creatives.

At issue is who owns the copyright in that tat on your forearm. After all, a tattoo is really no different than other creative work and as long as it is an “original work of authorship” (Most likely) and “fixed in a tangible form” (most defiantly), US law states that the subject matter is subject to copyright protection. A person who originally creates something generally has the exclusive right to control how that “expression” is used by others – they can give it away, sell it, or just prevent anyone else from using it. Tats are no different. When a tattoo artist does a design, whether directly on flesh or inked on a stencil, that creative work is his to control. The fact that it is a work being put onto the body of the customer is really no different than a wedding photographer’s right to control prints of a wedding, a musician controlling copies her composition, or a fine artist preventing prints being made of their work.


The same holds true for the stencils and “flash.” Flash is the process of putting a design on paper and tattoo designers committing their work to paper, which is then used by tattoo artist to ink the design. Over the years, the creation of “flash” has become an industry in itself, with designers being able to get their designs out to far more people than they could personally ink, by providing the designs to other tattoo shops.

Which leads me to language I found in a licensing agreement for a tattoo flash website “You may not . . .Remove the (c) from any design.” At least on its face, meaning that even when the design is inked, the © must appear. We hope they wont be this literal.

Now where can go out and get that tattoo on my backside “© my mama 1967” ?

Updated: 5/18/2017

Tax Deductions for Creatives

As Tax day approaches its important to take into account targeted deductions that benefit Creatives. One such deduction is the Domestic Production Activities Deduction (AKA Section 199 deduction) which was meant to encourage U.S. job creation. The deduction was created in 2004 as a part of the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 and is one of those nice benefits that is targeted at small businesses operating as sole proprietors, partnerships, LLC, or S Corps.

So What?
For many creative based businesses, this deduction may provide a significant deduction on gross income, based on the amount of W-2 wages spent in the production of their work. The deduction specifically singles out wages paid out in the sound recording, software (including websites), and film (excluding porn) industries, as well as producers of personal tangible items (clothing, books, etc.) for an additional tax credit against profits.

What to do?
Simple – if you are engaged in one of these categories, had a profit, and paid W-2 wages, make sure that your tax preparer is aware that you may have this additional 6% deduction available to you, or if you prepare your own taxes, be sure to look though the instructions for Form 8903 .

IRS Circular 230 Notice:
United States Treasury Regulations require me to disclose the following: Any tax advice included in this document is not intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used, for the purpose of avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code.