|Title:||Tattoos & IP norms|
|Citation:||Perzanowski, A. (2013). Tattoos & IP norms.Case Western Reserve University School of Law 511. Available at SSRN 2145048.|
|Link(s):||Definitive , Open Access|
|Key Related Studies:|
|Linked by:||Darling (2014), Fagundes and Perzanowski (2019), Iljadica (2017), Perzanowski (2017)|
|About the Data|
|Data Description:||14 qualitative interviews with tattooers throughout the United States.|
|Data Type:||Primary data|
|Secondary Data Sources:|
|Data Collection Methods:|
|Data Analysis Methods:|
|Cross Country Study?:||No|
|Government or policy study?:||No|
|Time Period(s) of Collection:||
The U.S. tattoo industry generates billions of dollars in annual revenue. Like the music, film, and publishing industries, it derives value from the creation of new, original works of authorship. But unlike rights holders in those more traditional creative industries, tattoo artists rarely assert formal legal rights in disputes over copying or ownership of the works they create. Instead, tattooing is governed by a set of nuanced, overlapping, and occasionally contradictory social norms enforced through informal sanctions. And in contrast to other creative communities that rely on social norms because of the unavailability of formal intellectual property protection, the tattoo industry opts for self-governance despite the comfortable fit of its creative output within the protections of the Copyright Act. This Article relies on qualitative interview data drawn from more than a dozen face-to-face conversations with professionals in the tattoo industry. Based on those interviews, it offers a descriptive account of the social norms that have effectively displaced formal law within the tattoo community, provides a set of complementary cultural and economic explanations for the development of those norms, and outlines the broader implications of this research for intellectual property law and policy.
Main Results of the Study
- The tattoo, though formally embraced by the copyright system, fits rather awkwardly in any property regime.
- Although they are unlikely to express themselves in terms of property theory, tattooers see their work as a sui generis amalgam of art, commerce, and human tradition. Perhaps then, it is not entirely surprising that they have opted to regulate this unique form of expression with rules crafted and enforced within their community.
- The norms tattooers have developed serve a number of overlapping purposes. They protect both the relationship between tattooer and client and the underlying assertion of personal sovereignty the tattoo represents by guaranteeing client autonomy.
- The value of these norms is not confined to tattooers and their clients. They offer the rest of us something as well. They demonstrate that the assumptions upon which we base intellectual property law are empirically untested and myopically focused on a tiny sliver of overall creative production defined by legacy business models.
Policy Implications as Stated By Author
The tattoo industry’s focus on the provision of personal services, rather than the multiplication and sale of copies, might serve as a useful model for other creative industries struggling with the ubiquity of copying.
Coverage of Study
|Level of aggregation:||Individual|
|Period of material under study:||2012|