COPYRIGHTS AND TATTOOS

Author: Arnika Dechamma

Intellectual Property Rights are legal rights granted to a person for a specific amount of time for any creative and artistic work, any innovation or discovery, or any literary work, words, phrases, symbols, or design. Intellectual property owners have been granted certain exclusive rights that allow them to use their property without interference and to prevent it from being misused. Any commercial or artistic innovation, as well as any distinctive name, symbol, logo, or design used commercially, is considered intellectual property. Copyright, as a form of protection of any commercial or artistic innovation, seeks to protect any such manifestations which are; ● pictorial and graphic works ● fixed in a physical object and display originality. Tattoos can be defined as permanent insertion of pigment under the skin or by production of scars . The question then arises is the sufficient originality of the artistic work in itself. In the context of copyright, originality is interpreted more fluidly, not insisting on a novel idea being conceived. Instead, it requires that the creator present their expression originally, not copied from another (the leniency in derivation of inspiration) and it must possess at least a minimal amount of creativity that the author brings in by himself. INDIAN LAWS THAT PROTECT COPYRIGHTS The copyright laws in India are given under The Copyright Act, 1957. Section 13 of the Act tells “Work on which copyright subsists”. It provides with the classes of work on which the copyright law can be conferred upon; i.e., artistic works. The word which has the weightage is “original”. To be protected by the Copyright laws, the work has to be completely original. Section 14 of Chapter 3 of the Act states the “meaning of copyright” which gives the owner of the work exclusive rights subject to the provision of this Act, as well as prescribing additional rights. Section 17 of Chapter 4 of the Act talks about the ownership of the copyright. It states the author (defined under section 2(d)) has to be the first owner of the work, and can further, partly or wholly transfer these rights to another (Section 18). INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENTS: Notably, in 2011, a lawsuit was filed against Warner Bros. for utilizing Mike Tyson’s tattoo in one of the movie “Hangover II’s” sequences. In the film, Ed Helms (the actor who plays Mike Tyson) wakes up with Mike Tyson’s tattoo on his face. S. Victor Whitmill, the complaint, claimed that it was an infringement of his copyright rights. A tattoo artist called Catherine Alexander filed a lawsuit in 2020, alleging that take-two interactive (a gaming developer) misappropriated her artwork in the WWE 2K series. She was contesting a tattoo she had done on one of WWE’s biggest performers, Randy Ortan, without her permission.

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