Tattoos are a creative process, sometimes collaborative but ultimately require skill and creativity. Many are original works of art created by tattoo artists for the bearer. The right to expression is a protected right held by all Canadians. Tattoos are becoming more and more accepted as a form of self-expression, accepted socially and professionally. Artists have a copyright interest in the work they create. With the amount of detail and artistry that is involved with tattooing; tattoos are both an art and a form of personal expression. 

These conflicting interests have the potential to produce some interesting legal questions. There have already been instances of celebrity civil suits regarding the use of tattoos in public facing ways. Canadian courts have not yet been faced with this issue. However foreign courts’ treatment of the question might provide some insight into the direction our courts will lean when deciding these issues. In this episode, Kwame helps us to use the context provided by our southern neighbors to imagine a path forward. 

Kwame Skerritt-Williams– Producer, Host, Editor

Pro Bono Radio is part of the Queen’s chapter of Pro Bono Students Canada. The Pro Bono Radio team are not lawyers, and this is not legal advice.

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Research Referred to in the Podcast: 

A Copyright on Tattoos: Where to draw the line? CBA National (2023),or%20acquire%20it%20by%20asignment

Canadian Admiral Corporation Ltd. v. Rediffusion Inc., 1954 CanLII 712 (CA EXC), [1954] Ex CR 382

Canada: PART I: Are Tattoos Protected By Copyright?, online: Fasken

Copyright Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42)

Fixation on Flesh: Why Tattoos Should Not Garner Copyright Protection (2019) 30:1 NYSBA Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Journal

Marie Hadley, ‘Whitmill v Warner Bros. and the Visibility of Cultural Appropriation Claims in Copyright Law’ (2020) 42(4) European Intellectual Property Review, 42(4) pp 223-229 file:///Users/kwameskerritt-williams/Documents/SSRN-id3812828.pdf