Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Copyright problems in tattoo and graffiti art


This is a great article on the copyright issues raised by tattoo art. It also made me think that the four “bizarre outcomes” listed by copyright guru, David Nimmer, are similar in the area of graffiti art (at least graffiti done without permission),

  1. With particular respect to celebrity and athlete tattoos, magazines, TV networks, documentary film makers and others could be required to obtain licenses from tattoo artists behind the celebrity’s or athlete’s tattoos.  If those licenses are not obtained, the celebrity or athlete herself could be liable for contributory infringement.

  2. An adjacent or overlapping tattoo might constitute a derivative work, which could itself be an infringement of the original artist’s rights.  Nimmer suggests this could lead to a court order to have the offending work laser removed.

  3. The Visual Artists Rights Act allows certain works of art to be granted “recognized stature,” which allows an artist to prohibit intentional or grossly negligent destruction of a work.  Under this Act, if a tattoo were granted “recognized stature,” the artist could obtain a court order barring removal or destruction of the tattoo.

  4. Even if the tattooed person goes so far as to obtain an exclusive license of all rights from the artist, that does not necessarily solve the issues described above.  Some copyright licenses can be subject to an inalienable right of the artist to terminate the license 35 years after grant.  As Nimmer explained, “For example, a 20-year old actress might get a tattoo from X, subject to his agreement (negotiated by her counsel) to assign to her all copyright interests in the image and never to terminate the grant.  When she turned 55, she might nonetheless be shocked to learn that X now has the right to block merchandising of her image.”

Now, what would happen if the graffiti was also done on an individual’s motor vehicle? Would this individual also be barred from painting their vehicle back to the original color? If this individual changed other elements of their vehicle, such as wheels, hubcaps, or decals, would this be a derivative work?


Mexican court blocks sales of Frida Kahlo Barbie doll


According to Frida Kahlo’s official twitter feed, distant relatives of Frida Kahlo have won a temporary injunction that stops Mattel from selling a Barbie doll depicting Frida Kahlo.

Prior story here. Thanks to our good friend, Raoul Anchondo for the ht.



MoMA, the museum, sues Moma, the cafe

Love the cafe owner’s thoughts on this lawsuit:

“They can have Richard Prince in their collection, but I can’t use Helvetica?”

Lesson of the day: Protect your brand, people. Protect your brand.


Fearless Girl is moving

NYC should move both the Fearless Girl and the Bull to Albany. After all, what better place for bull?

More here.


“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”

Eileen Kinsella on the most recent lawsuit filed against Jeff Koons and Gagosian Gallery.


Working-class neighborhoods and abuse of eminent domain


A new film on the Kelo v. City of New London case.

On Little Pink House, the film,

“Little Pink House” [...] recounts the true story of Susette Kelo … and her working-class neighbors in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood of New London, Conn., whose homes were seized by eminent domain to clear the way for an upscale private development at the behest of Pfizer, the Big Pharma colossus.

Overview of film via The Boston Globe.


Monkey selfie lawsuit lives on


Just when Naruto thought he was out, they pull him back in!

Yes, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to dismiss the case and will be issuing an official appellate decision. The Court points out that it does not have to dismiss a case simply because the parties settle. The Court also notes that Naruto (presumably a key plaintiff) was not a party to the settlement, so the Court believes PETA, suing on behalf of Naruto, was up to something.

The Ninth Circuit’s denial of the parties’ motion to dismiss is available here. Interestingly, this past February WIPO Magazine put out an article on the “Monkey Selfie” and copyright law, Can the monkey selfie case teach us anything about copyright law?


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