Oct 29, 2008

Walking Portfolios

'Chris Weiss, another fan of my 'Tribal Tattoo' artwork.'

For the past three years I've received emails out of the blue from people who have stumbled upon my tribal tattoo art and liked it so much they made a lifetime commitment to it. Meaning, they pull it off my web site and get it tattooed on their body in not so subtle ways like Claude Montreal.

I have two emotions in response to such emails. I am obviously flattered someone likes my art this much. I know personally I could never commit to my art to that degree, I'd get sick of it and regret doing it. A few moments later a feeling of irritation takes over that someone didn't even bother to ask permission and thus I can't help but view it as "Flattering Copyright Infringement."

'My Original Artwork.'

I am glad Chris liked my art to the degree he does and I am more than happy to grant permission to others who may want to get a tattoo based on my work. All I require is that you simply just permission to do so first.

Not everyone however uses my art with out permission. An advertising agency guy named Ruben Salavert not only liked my work, he went out of his way to commission me to illustrate the original tribal bat tattoo.

The inset pic is another example of someone using my art without permission.

I'd like to think that only good looking people would snag my art off my site and have it tattooed on their body, but clearly that isn't always the case. Obviously my art looks better when it's found in context of a well-proportioned, toned body type be it male or female. ;-P

My tribal bat tattoo art has really taken off of sorts. So much so a popular tattoo web site reported on it here.

I still think a good story line for a law show could be written about this type of situation. Some artist sues a person who took their art and tattooed it on their body and now has to get it surgically removed. Maybe a Hollywood weasel trolling for ideas will read this last paragraph and rip that off?

FYI: For information about my stock tribal designs or to have me create a custom tribal design for you visit VonsterTattoos.com.


traylorillo said...

You have a really good point, Von. It is fair to ask that the tatooee request permission prior to having your artwork permanently emblazoned on their anatomy rather than telling you after the fact.

The lines of copyright infringement really haven't come into focus around the burgeoning field of tattoo artists. It is, after all, an art form and someone is making a profit from it. Perhaps there will be some landmark case that brings things into more perspective... allowing for the licensing of artwork for tattoo artists where the artist gets a fee per use. I really don't know too much about the field as I have no ink myself.
I don't care for pain and I am far too fickle to commit to even my own art in such a permanent way.

Louis said...

I like the way the author ended the article, "Think before you ink". In the article the author talks about a "gray area" to copy right infringement. There's no gray area - stealing is stealing. I also found it amusing how the author takes a bow for seeking you out after the fact. It's like a child asking for the cookies after he's already eaten them. I do give the author kudos for the article though - the error has been recognized and a caution to others has been put forth. The funny thing is, (or not so funny), the tattoo artist benefits the most because they're obviously charging a fee to ink the client. It would be impossible though for the tattoo artist to demand to know who owns the rights to the artwork. It's up to the person requesting the tattoo to contact the owner of the artwork beforehand.

Very interesting post.

Think before you ink.

Skeeter Diego said...

You think that's bad? One day I was browsing through a rack of temporary tatoos at a record store and found that somebody had ripped off the custom tatoo design on my back and produced it as a temporary tatoo!!!

D said...

You guys should ease up a bit, imitation is the best kind of flattery. People have been reproducing art from the beginning of time. If someone decides to have your art tattooed onto their body, you should be honored and see it as free publicity. When a person goes out of the way for an amazing image, they will remember the artists name! When asked, the credit is given mostly to the artist than to the tattooer since it's not in the books nor created by the tattooer. If a tattooer takes it for his own and sells in his books then it's infringement. Tattoo artists are artists and have the same principles. When you walk in with an already created image, they will not to reproduce it to anyone else without the original authors authorization...just like they do not want their art elsewhere.
It is up to the people whom see your art and decide to honor you, to mention to the tattoo artist not to copy just to make sure.
Does Warner Brothers go after every one who has a tattoo of the Tasmanian devil, or Bugs Bunny?
They are happy you are doing it, it's free publicity.
Anyways, if you don't want people to be inspired by your art, why post it for free?
Didn't mean to start a trend, I just thought your tribal mask was cool, in a way, it's a good thing for you, people seem to notice your tribal art more. You should make a book and sell it to tattooers that need inspiration or new ideas.
Claude in Montreal

Vonster said...


If you read through all my posts on the subject of tattoos I think you'd see I'm flattered and I do enjoy it. But that doesn't change the fact it's technically copyright infringement.

Would I go after anyone who got a tattoo? No. I'm not a jerk but a toy company called "Imperial Toys" took my art off a guys back and sold it as their own so it does open up problematic situations. I can't ignore them so I blog about it.

Someone just asked me permission to do some art of mine as a tattoo and I said no problem. I'll be posting soon about another person too so I don't have problem with people liking my art I just want them to ask me permission first.

That's more than reasonable I think.


Greg Epkes said...

I don't think the person getting the tattoo puts them self at risk of being sued as much as the one giving the tattoo.

I'm surprised any professional tattoo studio would put them selves in such legally & financially vulnerable position to not only rip off published artwork but publicize it as well. Many times "as their own".

It says a lot about ones integrity and experience.

Carl Olsen said...

How exactly do you go about copyrighting your work?

Vonster said...


It can be done online. You can even gang up "4" images on one 8.5 x 11 sheet and only pay the one flat fee too.

Just visit: http://www.copyright.gov/eco/

That said, by default ownership and thus copyright is automatic for the creator of the artwork. You created it, you own the copyright period. The .gov site just makes it even more iron clad and litigation appropriate.


MAX MALIK said...

You have good tattoo ideas. i know your artwork is fantastic. i think you should make a website base on your artwork.]
Max Malik

Vonster said...


I will be, it'll be called www.vonstertattoos.com I've already started selling flash sheets of some of my designs.