I’m in the unfortunate position of having to make an unpleasant follow-up to a post that I really liked. After seeing an ink-doppelganger wearing what is effectively his facial tattoo in an advertisement for a Polish tattoo shop, Morgan Dubois was understandably upset about it. This theft stands out from the many others I’ve seen both because it’s a facial tattoo, the most “personal” of tattoo types, and because this isn’t a traditional tribal motif or common design, nor is it something that could in any way be considered flash. It’s a piece of custom abstract art, and where it gets really weird to me is that it seems like it would actually be easier to create a similar but unique piece than to painstakingly copy Morgan’s tattoo.
I can make a joke about how Morgan now owns his soul, but that doesn’t ease the pain that this causes. On one hand when you steal someone’s tattoo design, you’re not actually taking anything obvious from them, but that’s not true — you’re stealing their identity, their uniqueness. And that has value, especially in this community. That tattoo that they had designed for them, which became a part of them, was something virginal that gave itself just to them. Copying it and taking it as your own rapes that purity and dilutes its essence, and it’s a very personal insult that’s hard to really understand unless you’ve had it happen to you. I don’t want to attack the person who did it, and I think it was just a stupid, lazy, unthinking mistake rather than an act of malice. In the end they will realize what they’ve done and the shame of wearing the crime on their face like the scarlet letter is punishment enough. But I will say that this makes me very sad — for both people involved — and I just think it’s really unfortunate, and I hope I don’t have to see it again.
Those with elephantine memory may be reminded of a case way back in 2005 when a Russian tattoo fan copied Paul Booth’s entire facial tattoo, upsetting him greatly. I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt, and perhaps this has something to do with concepts of copyright and ownership being different in formerly communist nations, but either way it leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. Copying a facial tattoo is something that should never happen in a community that ostensibly holds up individualism and personal expression as an ideal.