Licensing art for tattoos...
November 2, 2017 3:32 PM   Subscribe

If you get a tattoo of a third party's art (not the tattoo artist's), how much should the original artist be compensated? (or should they at all?)

People get sports logos and popular cartoon characters tattooed on them all the time, and I've never heard of a way to pay a license for this, even though the tattoo artist is making money for this.

However, what about smaller, independent artists, who have their original creations replicated as tattoos, often without even permission.

Are there any existing guidelines around this? Legal precedent, or any other standards that set out the proper way to handle these situations?
posted by Unsomnambulist to Media & Arts (9 answers total)
The Italian guy who had one of my pieces tattooed on his leg sent me a picture of it, which was the first I knew about it. I was (and still am) flattered, but I think that's all I'll be getting out of the exchange.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:15 PM on November 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I paid a comic book artist friend $50 for the design he did that became my tattoo. But friend and I intended to pay him.
posted by zizzle at 4:40 PM on November 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I had the same experience as robocop - a guy got a chest piece of something I did years ago, which I thought was flattering but didn't expect any cash for. I'd be cranky if I found out a tattoo shop was using my work as flash on a continuing basis, but if someone wants a one-off of something that requires no effort from me, I wouldn't think anything of it.
posted by tautological at 5:01 PM on November 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Marc Johns has a pay what you want policy. I have three of his pieces tattooed on my person and he was super cool about it.

Gemma Correll is also cool with it.

I think this is something that really depends on the artist, though. Contact the artist if at all possible.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 5:29 PM on November 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

The proper way to handle it is to ask politely, in advance, and be prepared to accept "no" as an answer.
posted by sourcequench at 6:29 PM on November 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

Contact the artist. I know one artist just requests that they buy a print from her first. (I think this is a good solution.) It's generally pretty taboo to copy another TATTOO artist, but "traditional artists" are generally open to having their work adopted to skin. Each person is different, so just ask kindly.

If they say no, take the sources you like to the tattoo artist, tell them you like the idea but the original artist doesn't want it copied, and see what they can come up with as a compromise.

Also, sometimes art doesn't make a good tattoo. Listen to your artist if they tell you this.

Source: Am marketing person, is artist, has tattoos.
posted by Crystalinne at 7:13 PM on November 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

Personal policy: Contact the artist and ask them. If they say no, respect that and don't get the tattoo (I'm a purist on this front because I'd hate to look at any of my ink and know that the original artist didn't want me to get it done). If they quote a price, pay them what they ask. If they say "go for it and good wishes" it's nice to toss them some money via Patreon or whatever "tip me" thing they have set up, if they do. (And if they don't, buy a couple of books/prints/whatever as thanks, since I clearly like their work.)
posted by Lexica at 9:00 PM on November 2, 2017 [7 favorites]

I assume the artist who did the original doesn't do tattoos?

If you're able to ask, ask. If the artist sells flash or other art, it would be the appropriate gesture to buy something.

From being tattooed and talking to artists, most of the better artists won't want to rip something off, for a bunch of reasons. Before I got anything, I guess I underestimated the ethics at work. I just kind of figured artists would do whatever you wanted, and I'm sure there are those that do, but the really good artists are picky. I guess what I'm getting at is if you get permission for the original art, and you find an artist who you think can reproduce it really well, great. But you might want to think about finding an artist whose own artistic impulses are along the lines of what you want and letting them do their thing. I've let my tattoo artists have a big role in design and have been very happy with the results.

On the legal front, there are actually a bunch of potential issues you probably haven't thought about, but it's mostly concerning celebrities and/or tattoos as part of publicity and commerce. Here is an interesting one.
posted by tremspeed at 11:29 PM on November 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think Lexica's policy is pretty solid. If the artist sells prints of whatever it is you're hoping to get a tattoo of, buy a print and ask about the tattoo as part of the transaction. (It's pretty tacky to contact an artist and basically say "I looooove this print of yours, not that I'm going to buy one. But would you mind if I pay somebody else to copy it to my body permanently?")
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 9:14 AM on November 3, 2017

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