Tattoos and the Internet

Tattoos and the internet sound like a match made in heaven – all the inspiration you could want is there! But what are the dos and don’ts?

I absolutely love my tattoos. Most of them represent a lot of time invested by both me and the artist and there’s nothing I love to show off more about my body than the beaut artwork I have invested in, but in the age of social media I have to be careful. This may sound like an overreaction, but I live in fear of my tattoos being copied. No matter how warped or awkwardly I angle a photo, there will be a risk of someone coming along and deciding they want my tattoo too. All it now takes is a browse of Instagram and a naughty artist to get a line for line attempt at a copy, something that often fills me with dread.

I’ve spoken about my qualms with Bodyshockers: Nips, Tucks and Tattoos┬ábefore but recently an episode aired that truly infuriated me. On it, they featured a girl looking to get her first tattoo who’d found a design online that she loved and wanted to get on her thigh. This wasn’t a small piece, it was a large geometric lion, and what she ended up with was a (poorly done) copy of someone else’s work. At no point in the process did Channel 4 mention the original artist, or that to do this you need permission. Being the tattoo vigilante that I am I quickly tracked down the original artist (Coen Mitchell) to let him know; he’s a talented chap and has experienced quite a few copycats before so, unsurprisingly, he’s getting particularly fed up with it. Copying a tattoo is copyright infringement in the same way that tracing an image and claiming it for your own is, he would be well within his right to take legal action if he wanted and whether he does or not is now up to him.

When you copy a tattoo from the internet you’re not only cheapening the hard work of the artist but you’re also taking something away from the owner. Imagine you’d spent a great deal of money on a bespoke design that was completely unique to you, something you could really be proud of. Now picture that this beautiful, custom design was copied onto somebody else who hadn’t been remotely involved in the process. Personally I’d be devastated, my pride and joy would no longer be unique and I’d be sharing it with someone else who had found it on Google images.

Looking for inspiration online is fine, in fact, I firmly encourage it! Tumblr, Pinterest and even Instagram are amazing places to find exciting new artists and styles that you’ve never considered before – I’ve visited quite a few artists I’ve found on these platforms. If you’re planning a tattoo, or fall for one you’ve seen, try and think about the different aspects of it that you like and send it to a similar artist (or, even better, the same one if you’re within travelling distance) as a reference for a new design that incorporates your favourite elements. Zipping off a quick email to introduce yourself and pitch your idea is easy and on a few occasions I’ve attached images to say things like, “I like the way this one has a lot of symmetry but I really like the colours used in this one” in order to illustrate my ideas.

It’s fairly standard now that artists will take pictures of their work to put on social media. Instagram and Facebook albums now act like portfolios and attract potential clients to the artists work, but good, clear images can also be copied, or even traced, onto someone else’s body parts. with tattoos and the internet,┬áthere’s simply no way of getting rid of the risk of someone copying your pieces. It’s something we, unfortunately, have to live with and until it’s widely known that copying is deeply unfair there will always be the potential there for theft. There’s a very big difference between getting inspiration from the internet and outright copying other designs. Please, for the sake of the artists and the original clients, don’t cross it.