Unfortunate Facial Tattoo Copying

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.


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About Shannon Larratt

Shannon Larratt is the founder of BME (1994) and its former editor and publisher. After a four year hiatus between 2008 and 2012, Shannon is back adding his commentary to ModBlog. It should be noted that any comments in these entries are the opinion of Shannon Larratt and may or may not be shared by BMEzine.com LLC or the other staff or members of BME. Entry text Copyright © Shannon Larratt. Reproduced under license by BMEzine.com LLC. Pictures may be copyright to their respective owners. You can also find Shannon at Zentastic or on Facebook.

20 thoughts on “Unfortunate Facial Tattoo Copying

  1. Oh, don’t worrie, we all [even you] insult with malice, rape the essence of tattoos and their meaning by stealing everyday the purity of Sailor Jerry’s “Anchor”, or the great meaning and uniqueness of a “swallow” or the great identity of a Coil fish, OR… … …

  2. I hate people like that. You saw and think it is soo cool that you want to have it in your face? Is like trying to have Elvis face, no one will think you’re elvis …

  3. Is this not a pleasent thing? Imitation being the highest form of flattery and such, or am I missing the point?

  4. I came very close to committing a similar act of theft. On this site a few years ago I saw a pic of an ingeniously simple but very effective forehead tattoo on a guy called Christian Noni. For a whole year I kept viewing the pic, then decided to get an exact copy and made an appointment. An hour before the appointment I realised I was planning to steal a part of another guy’s identity which is morally wrong. I had stars inked on my leg instead!

  5. It always annoys me to see these posts, right back from when Asurfael’s sleeve copy was posted years ago. I wish people would be inspired by the design rather than decide to directly copy it. I’m sure it would annoy them if someone they knew decided to get the same tattoo, so why do they feel any different if it’s someone they saw on the internet? It’s for this reason that I haven’t posted any pictures of my most recent (and best) tattoos. I couldn’t deal with it very well if somebody decided to copy the designs that I spent a lot of time, effort, research and money on.

  6. as an occasional reader (and till now, I never posted anything), I’m puzzled by something in these pics:
    the copycat has an huge black tattoo on his neck, with a stripe left out that exactly matches the black rectangle next to the stretched earlobe, whereas the original tattoo just ends.

    could it be possible that this tattoo around the ear is actually a part of a much bigger tattoo, maybe covering the whole body, with a similar tattoo next to the other ear? till now I don’t see who is actually the copycat…

  7. Please don’t use “rape” as an analogy for anything else. Misusing the word “rape” and taking it as your own dilutes its essence, and it’s a very personal insult that’s hard to really understand unless you’ve had it happen to you.

  8. What is sad, is that every time when a case like this one comes out in Poland, there’re always people who are like “big deal, people are getting dolphins tattooed all over the world every second, is that copying as well?”.
    But what’s really sad that the guy is a tattooer himself.

  9. Zoggi, the word “rape” means “to plunder or despoil, to seize, take, or carry off by force” as well as a number of other things. As with many English words, there are several valid and differing ways to use it. I’m sure you have heard expressions before such as “the rape of the countryside” and so on.

    Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that by using a word correctly that I am making a comment on a different use of the word. That isn’t fair to me, or to language in general. My use of the word in this entry was not about sexual rape. Words have more than one meaning.

    I am sorry you feel this way and I am sorry if my use of the word upsets you, but I didn’t do anything wrong, and while it makes me sad that know you’re hurting, it isn’t my fault and I don’t have anything to apologize for.

    And if this subject is so important to you, you should know better than to suppose that you understand rape better than someone else. Do you really feel so confident in being able to judge over the internet who understands pain and who doesn’t? Who has experienced it and who hasn’t?

  10. Maybe the wearer of the copied tattoo is unaware of the original, and the tattooist is the one responsible. Just a thought.

  11. “the word “rape” means “to plunder or despoil, to seize, take, or carry off by force” as well as a number of other things [...] I’m sure you have heard expressions before such as “the rape of the countryside” and so on.”

    Did you ever wonder *why* it is used to mean those things? Yes, there have been historically many different uses of the word thanks to the immense power that the true meaning gives to it. The reason that “rape” is such a powerful word is that it is undoubtedly the most horrible thing that can happen to anyone. That is exactly why people use it to mean other things such as those examples you give.

    To use it as an analogy for something which is NOT rape, is cashing in on the power of the word, power which comes at the expense of the suffering of others. This is not something I would expect to see here.

    I would hazard a guess that a fair number of modified people have experienced sexual violence, I know for me that getting tattoos / piercings is a way for me to reclaim my body, to make it my own again.

    It’s bad enough having to hear people in mainstream media talk about “facebook rape” and other offensive analogies that belittle the experience of survivors, but I really did not expect to read it here where you would think people are more accepting of others’ experiences.

  12. In today’s day and age, if we don’t want our work copied, the surest way to avoid that risk is to not post any photos of your tattoos on blog sites, social media sites, etc. I don’t have any tattoos that are extremely unique that I think anyone would want to directly copy, but regardless, my tattoos don’t come up in any Google searches of stars, birds, etc. So those that may be very worried about their tattoos getting copied by someone else, perhaps consider limiting the accessibility of your work to the general public.

  13. to number 6: the tattoo artist in the first picture is the person who copied the original person’s on the right, not the other way around.

  14. AS FAR AS I KNOW… there’s only one person that had a copyright on her chest piece, just because an issue like this, and it’s Amina Munster (suicide girl), maybe you can contact her and ask how did she get the copyright, and the legal actions that she do over the copier.

  15. Gotter, Amina’s tattoo was a copy of a piece of Disney artwork, so if anyone owns the copyright, trademarks, and so on, on that tattoo, it is Disney, not Amina. Someone did copy her tattoo, which was in bad taste, but it wasn’t a legal matter she could pursue because she didn’t have legal claim to the image… If you tattoo Disney artwork on yourself, it does not become your legal property.

    That said, when it comes to original art, which this is, ALL tattoos are by default copyrighted. Copyright is AUTOMATIC. It is not something you need to register or file for, although you can do so in some cases if you want to strengthen your case. But it is not required. In any case, this is not about legal issues — this is about ethics.

  16. Zoggi, you are being unfair and irrational. Again, I’m sorry you are hurting. But you are being very unreasonable in projecting all of this onto me and my completely valid use of the English language.

  17. I was a victim of sexual violence, and I see no problem with Shannon’s use of the English language. I am more insulted by people who claim to speak for all “survivors of rape”. We are not all sensitive little flowers who wilt at the mere mention of the word.

    As to the article, my heart sank a little when I saw this. I can’t even understand how someone would think that was ok.

  18. yes, it is an exact copy, thats not cool…bad luck and karma for the other guy, what to do..
    but if you get very much inspired by other peoples tattoos yourself, then you should just shut the fuck up and stop whining…this face tattoo is very much inspired by the face tattoo of another tattooist that yann black did, the other side is inspired by another tattooists facial tattoo, the back has already been seen in london in the 90s….
    everybody copies at their level of confidence, no?

  19. Well written, Shannon,

    and well said, Ashley. I don’t see a misuse of the word on Shannon’s part and therefore has no reason to feel sorry for using it, and cheers to you for not being a wilting flower. But my prayers to all who’ve had to experience it, in any sense of the word

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