ModBlog News of the Week: April 15th, 2011

Welcome back to another edition of the weekly news report.  This week is happily another celebrity free week.  I’m worried that if it keeps up like this then one week all the stories will be celebrity related and that just saddens me.

Moving on, this week’s first story is about a school teacher in Sweden.  It seems that even though he’s been teaching there for 8 years, and is loved by everyone, a politician saw him one day and decided that something needed to be done to get the teacher away from the kids.

The problems started when pensioner and local politician Sture Grönwall, 70, visited the school and spied Aalto’s tattoos, piercings and spiky hair across the school canteen. “Can a teacher really look like that,” a startled Grönwall asked, according to the Aftonbladet daily. After speaking to one of the headmasters and not getting the response he was after, Grönwall decided to write to the local school board (Skolnämnden). In his letter he questioned the example a teacher like Aalto would set for students as well as the values of the school letting someone like Aalto teach there. The school board however did not share Grönwall’s view, coming out in defence of Aalto and Vasaskolan. “To let our students solely see adults with no tattoos or piercings and wearing suits would not show them an accurate view of today’s society,” they wrote in their response to Grönwall’s complaint.

Sam Aalto meanwhile expressed surprise at Grönwall’s reaction as well as the ‘media circus’ cropping up around him. “I have been working here since 2003 and the subject has never been brought up before – no one has ever reacted. I never knew that Grönwall had complained before I found out about the whole thing through the local press,” he said.

It’s great to see not only the school backing him up, but also the school board, the students, and the parents of the children.  It must be tough for that politician to realize that the world changed and he didn’t get the memo.

More news to come, so keep on reading.

While we’re still on the subject of schools, the New Plymouth Girls High School in New Zealand is also moving ahead with the times.

Facial piercings have been approved as part of school uniform at a major New Plymouth high school.  New Plymouth Girls High has abandoned an old policy allowing students one stud earring in each ear – a rule still imposed by at least four other Taranaki secondary schools, the Taranaki Daily News reported.

School board chairman Darren Muggeridge said students would now be allowed one lip and one nose piercing.  He described the new rule as a compromise in a hard-to-police area.  “It’s sort of meeting the students, not necessarily halfway but a little bit of the way for them to still wear a piercing but still sit within some rules and there are still rules around what is worn and where they’re worn.”  Mr Muggeridge said the school had tried to be very strict around uniforms, but it took a lot of time and effort to manage piercings.

Acting Principal of New Plymouth Girls High Stella Bond told the Taranaki Daily News the new policy had been decided after lengthy debate.  She acknowledged it may not satisfy all parents, but said policing facial piercings was no longer worth the time and effort the school had put into it.  “If we’re spending too much time on something, we need to decide if it’s worth it. We think there’s much more significant things to be dealing with.

I love how some parents are upset about the ruling.  As if not punishing students with piercings would somehow force their own children to get pierced as well.  It’s not like the school is setting up a studio in gym class.  On the plus side, it seems that all it takes for students to get the rules changed is to wait until the administration gets tired of enforcing the rules.

In another part of New Zealand a piercing studio is being investigated after a number of people reported infections shortly after getting pierced.

Complications from ear piercings at a Napier store has led to seven people being tested for hepatitis.  Seven people — most of them teenage girls — developed serious ear infections with abscesses needing to be cut open and drained, after being pierced at Trendez in February, Hawke’s Bay Today reported today.  Hawke’s Bay District Health Board and Napier City Council investigated after the series of infections came to light.  “There were deficiencies in the operator’s sterile procedures that could cause the transfer of skin infection from one client to another,” medical officer of health Dr Nicholas Jones said.

Obviously if you’ve had anything done recently at that studio you should probably go and get yourself tested as well.

We’ve all heard stories about how laser tattoo removal is often more painful than getting the tattoo in the first place.  Well some companies are trying to put forward new ways of removing tattoos.  Unfortunately it seems like using a skin cream to remove a tattoo may actually cause damage to your skin.  Shocking  I know.

Tattoo removal creams bought over the internet can result in scarring, ugly marks and in some cases can be totally ineffective, doctors warn.  People looking for cheaper ways to remove tattoos than laser therapy or surgical removal are driving sales of the creams, which cost between $80 for a small tube and $300 for a year’s supply.  But experts warn that the creams, some of which contain the bleaching chemical hydroquinone or the skin-peeling trichloroacetic acid, may not meet Australian standards for health and beauty products and can end up costing much more than professional removal.

Pramod Parmar, a laser specialist from the Manly Cosmetic and Laser Clinic, said bleaching creams could make tattoos look worse.  ”The ink has basically gone inside and penetrated the dermal layer, and a cream cannot go deep enough to release the pigment from there,” he said.  Dr Parmar said creams or other removal methods, including the injection of other chemicals to break down the tattoo, could cause the ink to smudge instead of removing it.

The website for one tattoo removal cream, Wrecking Balm, claims to use a ”chemical serum” to activate the removal process but the manufacturer did not respond to requests from The Sun-Herald for a full list of ingredients.

I can’t even imagine the sales pitch for something like this.  “Try this new cream that will use acid to burn away your flesh with the small chance of it removing a tattoo.  More often than not you’ll end up with a nasty chemical burn that smeared the pigment, but hey, it’s only a little bit cheaper than laser removal”.

In another “stupid idea” story, a Chinese man has been arrested after tattooing his wife’s face because he thought she may be cheating on him.

On the morning of March 30, the couple — who have two children — had a particularly bitter row, after which Wei “decided to disfigure Xiaowei. One, is to release his anger, second to make her make her ugly so she will no longer be loved by other men, as to prevent her from having affairs,” the site reads.  After tying his wife up and cutting characters into her face, Wei rubbed ashes into the injury, tattooing her. The horrific scars are also said to read “cheap” or “lowly,” depending on the translation.

Still, Wei has argued that Xiaowei “chose” to be disfigured:

The police in charge of this case told the reporter, those so-called “choices” were: 1. Xiaowei gets a vasectomy and stays home to take care of the children instead of going out for work; 2. Xiaowei’s lover gives 1 million RMB to Wei Shengxiong; 3. Xiaowei, her lover and Wei Shengxiong goes to court to solve this problem; 4. Wei Shengxiong is to disfigure Xiaowei and break her leg. Wei Shengxiong kept emphasizing to the police that Xiaowei chose to be disfigured.

I’m curious as to how her getting a vasectomy (I’m guessing he meant having her tubes tied) would prevent her from cheating on him.  Also given those options, I’m a little surprised she went with #4, seeing as how #3 would have been her best option.  Oh wait, you mean she didn’t actually have those choices?  That makes more sense.

Moving on, techdirt.com has a small article that bring up the question of copyright when it comes to tattoos.

My question is this, if a tattoo artist creates a unique design for a client, then this is tattooed on to the aforementioned client, does the tattoo artist still own any intellectual property rights (namely copyright) over this piece of art? If the tattooed subject were to go on to a profession (I can only think of modelling at this precise moment) where the tattoo was constantly broadcast to the general public, and the designer viewed this to be derogatory to their work, would they be able to litigate!”

If the tattooed subject wishes to have the tattoo amended or removed, [does] the tattoo artist [have] any ground upon which to object?

Good stuff for a law school exam, I would think. Of course, plenty of tattoo artwork is actually covered by copyright — which quite frequently goes ignored. But if we’re talking about a unique piece of artwork, and no clear assignment of the copyright is made, there could very well be an issue.

It’s worth pointing out, however, that this is not entirely a theoretical issue. Six years ago, we wrote about a tattoo artist suing the NBA, because a professional basketball player he had tattooed, Rasheed Wallace, had shown off the tattoo in a TV commercial, and the artist claimed it was a violation of his copyright. That lawsuit settled out of court, however, so we don’t have a legal ruling as specific (that I’m aware of… but if there are other such cases, I’d love to know about them!).

So what do you guys think?  Who owns the rights to the artwork?  The artist who designed it, or the person wearing it?

Another interesting article comes from Malaysia.  In it the reporter sits down with an older Saban woman, and talks about her ritual tattoos, and how hers was the last generation to use them.

Johan’s ever smiling face made her look much younger than her age. At times when she adjusted the sleeves of her long-sleeved blouse, tattoos were visible on her arms.  “Nice tattoos,” I ventured while taking my place on the bench where the couple were seated on Monday.  “Oh! these have been around for a long time, since I was very little. There are more on my legs,” she said.  Curious to know more, I asked how they came to be.  “From my granny. She is a Saban, a sub-ethnic group of the Orang Ulu of Sarawak. It is a tradition that has been handed down over the generations. Besides tattoos, Saban women also have very long ears,” interjected a nice-looking girl sitting with them.

Tracellia Nawi Unja, 20, was at the jetty to bid goodbye to the elderly couple who are her grandparents.  “But you don’t seem to have any, and your ears are not long either,” I shot back.  “It has been some time that we have done away away with these traditions. We have changed with the times, more so with the younger generation migrating to urban areas,” said Tracellia, a university student in Kuching who was well-versed in English. Not wanting to be taken in by the exceptional beauty of Saban girls, I changed the topic and resumed my conversation with her grandmother.  “Mak cik (auntie), what motifs are usully used in Sabans’ tattoos? Why only mak cik has tattoos but pak cik (uncle) doesn’t?  “The motifs are of plants and nature,” answered Johan.  “No, men also have. But for the Sabans, only men who succeeded in headhunting get tattoos, always drawn on the thighs,” chipped in Kassim.

Johan then said it was a tradition of the Saban for girls to be tattooed and that in the old days, it was compulsory for the eldest girl to undergo full body tattooing.  “The tattooing is done after she gets married and is a month pregnant with her first child,” she said, adding that it had nothing to do with religious beliefs, only to differentiate the Sabans from other tribes.  Johan said her generation was the last to have tattoos and that their offsprings were no longer willing to have their bodies pierced, and in fact, all her three daughters had rejected the practice.

All over the world many rituals like this have been gone for centuries, but to be able to talk with someone who experienced these traditions, as well as see them disappear is a remarkable experience.

We’re just about done with the news for the week, but there are a couple of press releases that caught my eye this week.

First is that Nintendo is releasing a tattoo design game for the DS.

The first title is Art of Ink by Sabarasa. This is a tattoo parlor simulator where players use the stylus and Nintendo DS touch screen in order to draw onto a person, all while making sure they are pleased.

You know you want a copy of this one.

And in the final announcement/story, next week marks the first International Tattoo Convention in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Who knew that Nepal would be the preferred destination for tattoo enthusiasts from across the globe? The first International Tattoo Convention will be from 22 to 24 April 2011 at the Yak & Yeti Hotel in Kathmandu and over fifty well known artists from the international tattoo community will participate.

The first of its kind, the convention will include competitions, presentations, and training workshops and will also showcase different tattoo art forms and cultural events. Mohan’s Tattoo Inn, the organizer of this event, has been at the forefront of nurturing the nascent tattoo culture here by creating an excellent platform for amateur as well as professional tattoo artists to come together to promote the art of tattooing and foster Nepal as a tattoo destination.

Art, just like knowledge, grows by sharing. You cannot expect the tattooing culture to grow and thrive if you want to be the only ones doing it. When a lot of people are encouraged to look at this form, which has long been considered immoral by overlooking our indigenous culture, in a new light, this could only help the industry as a whole to flourish.

I suppose if you happen to be in Nepal in the next week, it’d certainly be worth checking out.  The article itself also has several interviews with some of the artists who will be appearing at the convention.

So that’s it for this week ModBlog readers.  Have yourselves a great weekend, and as always, if you find a story in the news that you think should be included in the weekly news post, just send me the link.

23 thoughts on “ModBlog News of the Week: April 15th, 2011

  1. Much kudos to Aalto, and the school district that stood behind him! One step closer to being able to be yourself and do what to do! About the rights to the artwork of a tattoo, I was thinking about the transaction itself meaning more. Even if a tattoo artist owns the work, isn’t paying for the tattoo a consideration for “buying rights” to the artwork?! Kind of like buying music. You may not own the song, but you do own the copy that you purchased. Just thoughts. Love the news blog!

  2. The story about Aalto is awesome. The school board backing Aalto up was amazing. I really like the reason given as well ( “To let our students solely see adults with no tattoos or piercings and wearing suits would not show them an accurate view of today’s society,”).

  3. hahahah tendz again eh….noone in nz learns when it comes to that shop they are hardcore blacklisted cos they are only a clothing shop not a body piercing shop thier “training” consisted of one day free piercings…i shit you not. there was a petition in christchurch a few years back to get them shut down, they still had their mall store but town closed up, they have a very big reputation for infecting people or using dirty tools one case a needle was used twice on two different people, the amont of piercings that came into my shop that were on very large angels or piercied through dangerous parts of the body leaving huge swelling,bruising and in one case a dude couldnt move part of his face! and thats just christchurch trendz

  4. I still think a collared shirt would be a good idea for a teacher, not a suit and tie, but I think even a polo can clean up a look…I wouldn’t say his tattoos and piercings would be a problem but band tshirts seem unprofessional, wouldn’t make him a bad person or bad teacher, I’m not even saying long sleeves just a collar and buttons go a long way. It honestly should be about his teaching approach, his rapport with students, parents and other faculty, and if the politician isn’t part of the school board, why is he causing problems? I’m glad he’s getting support

    That’s always scary to hear about unclean environments, I hope everyone is alright.

    Miracle tonics even in the olden days was usually cocaine for tooth aches, and other ridiculous things… So magic tattoo fading cream shouldn’t be taken seriously, though I use bio oil [essentially liquid vitamin e] on scars and it seems to help

    The situation in china is disgusting, I hope that man gets in so much trouble and something can be done to save her face…I don’t even have words for this.

    Ha. Nintendo ds. cute. I think the ipod app. where it shakes and makes tattoo machine noises and you can choose shaders and liners and all that… THAT’S COOL but the ds is going to be corny…neat idea though.

  5. **Also I know it’s a community and not a site just for me or anything, but Rob you’ve been making much better posts, I don’t know if there’s just been more news or if you’re getting back into the groove or what, but I’m enjoying this place a lot more lately < 3 keep it up

  6. In copyright law, at least here in the U.S., there is a concept of “work for hire” that basically says the person paying for the service of creating a piece of intellectual property owns the copyright, not the individual artist who created it. If Disney hires me to draw a character for their next animated feature (as if …) and it makes them a bundle of money, I have no rights to their profits beyond the fee I negotiated in the contract before the work was done, nor can I stop them from putting my character on lunch boxes or T-shirts down the line. Same story if a company hires a programmer to write a custom computer app for them — the company owns the product, which it bought in the open market to use as it wishes. There may not be case law applying specifically to tattoos yet, but I’m sure the same general principle would prevail — the customer who pays for the creation of the tattoo is the true owner, and the artist is just creating a work for hire.

    Without this protection, companies and institutions could never own copyrights at all, as they would all belong to the individual artists.

  7. The first news makes me feel proud of being Swedish. We spearhead before the rest of the world on all sorts of levels!

    Horrible story about the chinese woman. Some people are just messed up.

  8. That Swedish teacher is rockin’! Genuinely good to see that he is supported by the school, the schoolboard, the parents and the kids!
    Cool news story. Maybe it’s not a true sign that things are getting better for modified folks, but it seems like a step in the right direction may be taking place. Well done Sweden!

  9. Does anyone know if any suspension crews will be attending the Kathmandu Tattoo Convention?

  10. Greg S. got to this before I did, but he’s right, which I hadn’t known. I did a quick Westlaw search for cases about tattoos and copyright and only came up with cases of employees stealing flash when they were fired (which was a question of ‘corporate property’ more than intellectual property) and one transfer tattoo company that basically copied an artists’ copyrighted paintings. Nothing about tattoos, but I’m sure it’s not far off. The statute doesn’t address tattoos specifically, while it does enumerate specific things that are considered ‘works of art,’ so I reckon a clever attorney could show that tattoos are unique and deserve special consideration if and when this sort of case comes in front of a judge.

    The US copyright standards and definitions are available at Title 17 of the US Code, if anyone’s interested.

  11. amazing and props to the school and school board for backing their teachers. i had a teacher who was praised by staff and students yet 2 girls did a skit (in a drama class) that the said teacher did not ok and said was inapropriate, they made up another skit, but when it came to show time, went with their original act. due to that the school ended up firing him, other teachers faught for him to stay and that it wasnt his fault, i think 4 others walked out after that.

    find it funny that parents complained about the school changing their piercing policy making it ok for the kids to have more…. um, maybe if you were a better parent than your kids wouldnt have piercings you didnt want them to have. it always irks me that parents want other people to regulate their kids for them.

    also knew a girl who tried to “clean” up her life so she used a cream to help remove/fade her tattoos so she could have them removed later or have them be less visible…. what was black ink turned into BIG purple blobs. im not even sure how to really describe it, but it just wasnt good at all. i saw her 6 months after she started applying it, after that i never ran into her again

  12. forgot the copyright story, wasnt there a similar story about a Suicide Girl that had a huge pirates of the caribean style chest plate who tried sueing someone because her and her artist had actually gotten it copyrighted just a few years back? pretty sure it was featured here on mod blog.

    dont remember the girls name, remember something about the copyright or the piece itself being worth a grand and she had a prosthetic leg from the knee down. good luck to whoever chooses to look it up

  13. That was supposed to be say “It was Amina Munster who you are thinking of, she also had an iam account years ago.”
    Fucking brain moves to quick for my fingers.

  14. I live in New Plymouth and I applaud Girls High for that decision. I am now having everyone remind me of how I won’t get jobs with facial piercings and tattoo’s, however. Woo.

  15. I’m a tattooed teacher (in France) as well and i always conceal my tats under shirts and cardigans and this article made me realize i should actually let the school know and that it’s time for the crochety old motherfuckers who make the rules for everyone to shut the fuck up!

  16. Nano, thank you for the assist on that, she was the one that had that huge issue with her chest piece though wasnt it?

    xanthox, good luck

    Jon P, hahahahahahahaha

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