University of Southern California

Who Owns Your Skin: Intellectual Property Law and Norms Among Tattoo Artists

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Note by Matthew Beasley
From Volume 85, Number 4 (May, 2012)

Tattoos are part of mainstream culture in the United States. This is especially true among younger generations. While 23 percent of Americans have at least one tattoo, 32 percent of “Generation Xers” have at least one, and 38 percent of millennials have at least one. 19 percent of millennials have at least two. Movie stars and sports stars now commonly have several tattoos. Chart-topping pop star Lady Gaga announced the title of her most recent album by tattooing it on her body and flashing the tattoo at Los Angeles International Airport. Eighteen-year-old Disney starlet Demi Lovato thanked her fans for their support by tattooing “Stay Strong” on her wrist. In 2005, the cable television channel TLC began broadcasting the reality TV show Miami Ink, which followed the events of a tattoo shop in Miami Beach, Florida. Miami Ink’s success led to spinoffs in Los Angeles, London, and Rio de Janeiro. Along with, and indeed aided by, the success of the reality TV shows, the modern U.S. tattoo industry is a multi-billion dollar industry.

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