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Editorial Page > View Editorials

Who’s Stealing My Tattoos?

Protecting Your Art.

by AdamSkyArtist

August 29, 2005

Even on my days off, I'm usually at the tattoo shop. As a tattoo artist, I spend most of my personal time back at the shop, hunched over the drawing board. If I'm not drawing custom tattoos for my clientele, I'm drawing flash. I like to think of drawing flash as drawing tattoos for people who don't even know they want to get tattooed yet.

On some days it's harder to motivate myself to draw than others. For instance, last week I came into the tattoo shop and I couldn't make it past the couch in our waiting room. I sat with India, my lovely receptionist sipping a Grande Iced Soy Tazo Chai Latte and began to bullshit about my day. What I was really doing was procrastinating from making my way to the drawing table. That's when I turned my head and noticed a poster taped to the inside window of the shop; a black and white, poorly laid out and cheaply photocopied advertisement. The poster solicits a general casting call for tattooed people or people who do tattoos to appear in a low budget mocumentary film about tattooing. My semi-disinterested glance turned in to sudden consternation when I noticed some very familiar looking tattoo designs adorning the ad. Specifically, tattoo designs that I drew.

I put a lot of my work 'out there'. I make my tattoo flash and photographs of tattoos I've done available for view on the Web and my work has been published in tattoo magazines and books. But a big risk that any artist takes by allowing his work to have exposure is the propensity for artwork to be stolen, ripped or just generally used without permission.

I ripped the poster out of the window, grabbed the phone and called the number listed in the ad. A gentleman answered with a simple "Hello", I think I may have reached someone's house. "Uh, hello, I saw a poster advertising a casting call for tattooed people to help in a film, is this you guys?" I asked. "Yep!" the gentleman replied. "Well, my name is Adam Sky, I work at Sacred Heart Tattoo..." and I was interrupted with "Heeeeey!" in some sort of tone of recognition to my name.

"...Well, there are some images in your advertisement; some tattoo images - where did you get those?" I wasn't about to lose focus or determination. Then there was some silence and a reply. "Uh, on the Internet."

"Okay, here's the problem. Some of those tattoos are mine. They're copyright to me and solely my intellectual property. Did you get my permission to use them?" I continued, feeling my blood pressure slowly rising. The gentleman on the other end started stammering "Well, no but..." I interject, "We have two options then. You can either remove all of these posters immediately or you can tell me your mailing address and I'll send you an invoice for using my artwork." The voice on the other end started to laugh and then the highly emoted cursing began. "DON'T YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!?" he (continued next page...)

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