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Syracuse University Libraries

Tattoos and Copyright: Current Cases: Relevancy

A fool-proof guide to understanding the implications of copyright in the field of tattooing, both for the patron and the artist.

Court Cases and Legality

This section is dedicated to showing the most relevant cases pertaining to copyright infringement and tattoos. These cases add another layer of complexity and -- perhaps -- confusion to the related notions. Seeing that most tattoo-copyright infringement cases are settled out of court, there is only so much we can see about the legality attached to the use of copyrighted images in tattoos and the repurcussions. 

LeBron James

LeBron James's two tattoos pictured above are copyrighted by Cleveland-based tattoo artist James Hayden. Other NBA stars also sporting copyrighted designs include Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, and Danny Green. 

Mike Tyson

Mike Tyson's face tattoo was created by S. Victor Whitmill, who copyrighted it back in 2003. 


Athletes and Celebrities in General

Carlos Condit's rib cage tattoo was done by artist Christopher Escobedo. It was the center of a lawsuit in a virtual manifestation of Condit in a video game, where the developers failed to ask Escobedo for permission to use it.


This LibGuide was created for the purpose of exploring the complexities of copyright law relative to tattooing as an art form. It contains information, research, and links to resources about copyright. The information provided here should NOT be construed as legal advice. For legal advice, please consult an attorney.