The jig is up- tattoos just aren’t that rebellious anymore. It seems like nowadays, everyone and their Aunt Suzie has a cute little flower inked on their foot, or some quote from The Notebook emblazoned on their arm. Professional sports athletes are arguably one of the main reasons for this (mostly) ubiquitous acceptance of tattoos in our society today.

Instead of facing societal expulsion through media exposure however, professional athletes now face a new problem- copyright infringement.

According to a recent Forbes article, some tattoo artists are arguing that they own the copyright to the tattoos they bestow, not the person with the actual tattoo. At the same time, companies are cashing in on the use of tattoos as a unique identifier for professional athletes. For example, GQ magazine recently put a bare-chested Colin Kapernick on the cover of their latest issue. Kapernick, a rising star quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, has been at the forefront of this pressing issue because of his heavily inked physique.


If a court were to rule that the tattoo artist held ownership of Kapernick’s tattoos, the NFL Players Association would theoretically have to hold Kapernick accountable and require him to compensate that artist for any public appearance he makes.

The court hasn’t made any such ruling yet, but author of the Forbes article Darren Heitner writes, “It is likely that the court would rule the artist maintains ownership of the copyright of the tattoo.”

The NFLPA is now advising all players to get a release from their tattoo artists stating that they will not sue for copyright infringement.

It is obvious to see how this may be problematic not just for athletes, but for musicians as well. Can you imagine your favorite musicians having to jump through legal hoops just so they can show their tattoos in a music video? Do the tattoo artists deserve some sort of copyright protection for their work?

Tell us what you think!