Abstract: Copyright law has never failed to modernize itself to meet the rapid pace of technological development and welcome into its fold, every new medium of expression. Yet, the conceptualization of the ancient art of tattoos as copyrightable works presents before it a daunting challenge involving the most unique medium ever encountered – the human body. The nature of tattoos creates a situation where the rights of the copyright owner stand heavily conflicted with the rights of the individual who forms the medium for these works. Confronted with this clash, academics have been forced to ask the question of whether tattoos should be granted copyright protection at all. This article explores the question of copyrightability of tattoos within the Indian legal regime. It analyzes the implications of the overlaps between the rights arising out of copyright, bodily autonomy and the right of publicity on celebrities engaged in the sports and entertainment industries. The author disagrees with the notion that copyright over tattoos must necessarily be denied in order to preserve an individual’s autonomy. Arguing in favour of a schematic division of rights between the tattoo artist and the individual bearing the tattoo, the article asserts that it is possible to reconcile the various rights without having to defeat copyright law or jeopardize individual autonomy.


Author: Adyasha Samal is a B.A. LL. B. (Hons.) graduate of the Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur. The author may be reached at adyashasamal@gmail.com.

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