Intellectual property (IP) is an umbrella term used to identify intangible rights including copyright, trade marks and patents. Certain types of IP such as trade marks, designs and patents are registrable rights, whereas others, such as copyright, are not.

Does Copyright Subsist In Your Tattoo?

Copyright is a set of economic rights protecting various subject matters including artistic works. In Australia, copyright is automatic and does not need registration. Where copyright would automatically subsist in artistic works such as drawings, paintings and sketches on more traditional mediums such as a paper or fabric canvas, it is unclear whether the same applies for tattoos, where the artistic work is etched onto the human body. However there are still ways of protecting your intellectual property as a tattoo artist.

Put Sketches, Drawings and Designs Onto Paper or Other Mediums

Any tattoo designs drawn on more traditional mediums (e.g. paper) would be protected by copyright. You should consider dating the work, and inscribing your name, signing or putting down a mark that readily identifies you as the author of the work. Such a mark will not only help build your portfolio of works, but may also affect the duration of copyright protection.

Enter Into a Collaboration Agreement

If you collaborate with another tattoo artist to produce a particular design, you should consider executing a collaboration agreement and set out who will own the work or whether it will be jointly owned.

Register a Trade Mark

If you provide your tattooing services using a particular trade mark, whether it is a name or logo, consider registering the mark to afford yourself greater legal protection.

Check Your Employment Agreement

It is not uncommon for an employment agreement to have an intellectual property clause detailing who owns the intellectual property created during the course of employment. Whether you are an employer or employee, you should review your agreement, checking the intellectual property clause to determine who will own the tattoo designs.

Licensing Your Designs

If you are the intellectual property right holder of the work, you can grant permission to another individual or business to use the work through assignment or under a licence.

If Copyright Subsists, How Long Does it Protect My Work For?

Duration of copyright protection is different from trade marks and other registrable rights where the duration is determined in set periods from the time of registration. The duration of copyright in original works is life of the author plus 70 years. However, the duration of copyright in anonymous and pseudonymous works is only 70 years from the year the work is first published. This is why it may be important and valuable to include your identity on your artistic work.

Takeaways

Intellectual property can be a valuable commodity and should be protected. It is a good idea to have any agreements governing your rights, including copyright or other intellectual property rights, be in written form. Our team of contract lawyers have extensive experience in this area and would be happy to assist. To speak with one of our lawyers today, contact LegalVision on 1300 544 755.

Lisa Lee

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