It is difficult to identify a more personalized statement or method of collaborative endorsement than utilizing our bodies as canvases, permanently marking one's skin


Tattooists might constitute some of the most prolific producers of artwork. Their client's tattooed compositions are more broadly and readily visible than works done perhaps in nearly any other medium.  Yet within the tattooing field sufficiently detailed or serious analysis of activity as well as associated technological and socioeconomic impacts are rarely accorded

We turn briefly to an article from New Zealand. As is most common with online tattoo-related writings, content often primarily serves as an advertisement vehicle for images hyping inking as a practice and is then peppered by quotations from a handful of easily contactable [often just mainstream] artists

Implications of copyrighting tattoo designs and associated body art forms, particularly completed tattoo works, are however worth exploring in greater detail:


"Tattoo artists calling for right to have copyright on their work | There's an unwritten rule in New Zealand - decent tattoo artists don't copy designs. Right now the Copyright Act 1994 is under review, and artists behind the ink say stricter legislation could protect original tattoo designs. House of Natives founder Gordon Toi would champion tattoo protection. "I would like to see some kind of governance over Māori tattooing and Polynesian tattooing ... there's so much exploitation." Original designs were often replicated, often overseas without even talking to the New Zealand artist, he said.

"Skin is probably the hardest thing to copyright, because everyone is copying it." Pacific Tattoo owner Tim Hunt wanted artists to respect the meaning of Māori and Pacific cultural patterns and symbols. "Any artist could say, I can do you a design that has korus and looks Māori", Hunt said.

"But if you want something authentic, you will have to go somewhere else." Overseas, tattoo artists are suing when their designs appear on in the media, like television. In 2011, the artist of Mike Tyson's Māori-inspired facial tattoo sued Warner Bros over a depiction of similar facial art on a  character in The Hangover: Part II. If copyright law protected cultural images, Hunt would respect the change. "I want more tattoo artists to stand up and say: 'I don't know enough about it, I don't know the history behind it, and I don't know the context behind it'." Overseas, tattoo artists replicate images without a second thought.

New Zealand was different, he said. "It's kind of an unspoken code in New Zealand that you just don't do that." Hunt believed the customer owned the tattoo, not the artist. Union Tattoo owner Craigy Lee agreed there was an unwritten code of conduct to not copy a custom tattoo. Decent artists would not dare to make money from someone else's design, he said. University of Auckland associate professor Alex Sims said technically what is currently occurring in New Zealand is probably copyright infringement - under the banner of artwork. However Sims cautioned against strict enforcement of copyright laws on tattoos, which could include removal of tattoos, preventing the tattoos appearance in films and advertisements, or requiring the removal of tattoos from social media."It would give the copyright owner the power to control images of a person, which would be extremely concerning and just wrong | May 28th 2018, Amber-Leigh Wolf on Stuff"

tattoo vs art


We address professional practitioners, tattooing as their sustainable primary means of income. For use in the tattooing world, a distinction between copyrighting designed or applied tattoo artwork must be made

Tattooists may have multiple images and other as yet non-applied media content including designs, compositions, sketches or custom artworks. Like representations of various traditional art forms, these are relatively easy to record as well as upload, allowing clear digital ascription of copyright ownership

Separately, as worn by clients, tattooists typically have portfolios of tattooed pieces. Using three-dimensional canvases introduces complexities to automated digital identification. In numerous image copyright tracking software, positioning alone may entirely throw off investigation techniques

While Instagram and alternate photo uploading databases offer some form of time-stamped verification, due to comparatively openly editable structures the subsequent source and ownership attribution can become diluted. Whether a tattooist's produced artwork is documented on skin or another type of canvas is the first practical distinction

artist vs technician


In order for copyrighting considerations to be adequately reviewed, grouping serves as a tattoo industry specific starting categorization. On one side of the tattooing creative spectrum there are those artists only implementing their styles and techniques

Forgoing reflections of how a tattoo artist's aesthetics may have been derived or inspired, tattoo works themselves may be independently recognizable as "theirs". In a sense, the tattoo artist has a stylistic monopoly

Proportionately with other creative mediums, the tattoo artist has a particular vision, knowledge and or expertise that may not be readily substituted for or by anyone else. The tattoo artist can therefore be classified as practicing the tattooing craft so as to convey a unique structure or presentation in composition and or furthering the continuation of a single aesthetic or technique

Tattoo technicians may have distinct portfolios of completed, tattooed works. While the tattoos in such portfolios cannot be exactly replicated, any such comparably 'unique' attribute is due primarily to the placement on a bespoke canvas, i.e. on an individual [unique] person

The cohesive result is custom rather than review of the composition in isolation. Likewise such tattooed work is formed within specific, often non-reproducible proportions. The resulting tattoo composition could indeed be faithfully replicated by any number of other tattoo technicians, albeit on a different [unique] canvas

As again proportionate to qualified technicians in any field, a tattoo technician may be substituted with no inherent loss or degradation to results. A technician is a tattooist physically and technically capable of applying any number of tattoo categories and may do so indiscriminately regarding adherence with a single style, size, technique, aesthetic and or design. Capacity rather than artistic temperament or vision here constituting the limiting factor

tradition vs technique


Tattoo artists may be thought of [as just two examples from millions] Ondrash conveying a unique aesthetic to Horioshi III in Japan continuing the culturally rich art of tebori. Both being solely in the tattoo artist's jurisdiction, delineation of copyrighting unique compositions as opposed to reproductions of traditional iconography forms another noteworthy separation

Like any configuration in the more classically mainstream mediums such as painting, the dichotomy is not to state that tattoo art itself necessarily neatly falls onto either side. As with all artistic pursuits, sources of inspiration as well as subjectively justifiable conclusions that the same compositions labelled as 'homage' by some and 'theft' to others remains to be objectively qualified in any manner whatsoever

As often said, good artists copy - great artists steal. In practical terms though the tattoo artist producing traditionally inspired works may automatically and logically be precluded from copyrighting registration of tattooed art pictured off of the human canvas

copyrights vs claims


There may be a twofold purpose of copyright registration for tattoo art. Firstly this functions as externally verified recognition, by a third party, of bespoke or attributed authorship. Such adds credibility, weight and or authority to content. Not least of which often lending substance to sales pricing

Secondly the purpose of holding a copyright ownership registration could be preparation for cataloguing proceedings if or when initiating formalized legal protections. These proceedings nonetheless require the violator(s) be identified, engaged with, refuse to honor the registration and then be successfully convicted in a manner constrained by their geographically applicable court(s) of law

Quantification of receivable remuneration depends on violator's accurate identification, owned content's documented use, set culpability through response and achievable legal ramifications as determined in no small part by physical location. All forming notable complicating factors

recognition vs protection


It has been found to be commonplace that a tattooist may use the designs or even completed tattooed portfolio pieces of another. While a large portion of accredited tattoo artwork is searchable online, the sheer volume accessible via disparate sources complicates attempts at single point [i.e. one tattooist's] crediting

As with those shown to studio clientele, it is possible that illicit or unauthorized use of tattooed works conceivably is outside the scope of digital identification itself as say with printed or offline portfolios

Tattoos often serve as individually enacted and privately held art forms. Online display and thereby essentially public 'registration' of tattooed works may too therefore purposefully not exist. A wearer could have requested this. These factors translate into an ability for tattoo technicians, dealing directly with individual clients, to potentially be quite liberal in statements of completed works as well as, by extension, their claimed tattooing experience or expertise

In a practical manner, the motivations or impetus for copyright ownership registration of tattoo works applies most broadly to the tattoo artist and perhaps only as form of registration of completed portfolios to the technician. While achievable remuneration or punitive actions against copyright ownership violators is far from universally predictable,

a focus on digitally time-stamping both tattoo artwork and portfolios through blockchain verification is the first step towards assurances of authenticity


However used a creator now has immutable, single-source substantiation of ownership. As with the technology's decentralized capacity, trust reallocation onto individual sources as opposed to 'hubs' equates to participants potentially ushering in a new standard of verification

This is hugely beneficial for the client in the selection process. For tattoo artists these effects and benefits of copyright ownership through blockchain are also significant

This is why TOF® offers an immediately practicable, streamlined and low cost blockchain copyright ownership claim function to and held by its members



a new token