NYTimes: Any creative illustration “fixed in a tangible medium” is eligible for copyright, and, according to the United States Copyright Office, that includes the ink displayed on someone’s skin. What many people don’t realize, legal experts said, is that the copyright is inherently owned by the tattoo artist, not the person with the tattoos.
Some tattoo artists have sold their rights to firms which are now suing video game producers who depict the tattoos on the players likenesses:
The company Solid Oak Sketches obtained the copyrights for five tattoos on three basketball players — including the portrait and area code on Mr. James — before suing in 2016 because they were used in the NBA 2K series.
…Before filing its lawsuit, Solid Oak sought $819,500 for past infringement and proposed a $1.14 million deal for future use of the tattoos.
To avoid this shakedown, players are now being told to get licenses from artists before getting tattooed.