I saw this nipple tattoo (the one on the left) posted on a friend’s tumblr blog, and not long after it was posted it was followed up by an angry accusation of being copied from the smaller image on the right (which the sharp-eyed may notice is on a friend who I’ve posted a few times). I’m not sure who the accusation came from as I’m not a tumblr user, and if it’s from the wearer, I want to be clear that I don’t think less of them for their moment of upset — it’s natural to feel this way at first. However, I think that it’s important to realize that now that the entire f-ing world is tattooed, it is unavoidable that people will have similar tattoos.
I have seen floral nipple tattoos and other decorated nipples since the very beginning of BME. They are an obvious idea that lots of people have had, because they’re a great thing to do. And one of the most obvious nipple transformations is into a flower. As flowers go, these are far from a line-for-line copy. I can’t tell you if the one was inspired by the other, or if they were both inspired by an even earlier similar tattoo. But I can tell you that there are hundreds if not thousands of almost identical tattoos to this that were done long before both of them. If we are going to accuse the one tattoo in this entry of having stolen from the other, then I think we can easily call both of them thieves many times over — and we can start saying that about the vast majority of tattoos.
One of the unfortunate things about the very wonderful reality that the tattoo community has grown massive is that if you want to work with traditional motifs — be it oldschool sailor tattoos, or be it “tribal” designs, or be it flowers — that you are going to from time to time end up with almost identical tattoos to someone else through complete coincidence (or ethically valid inspiration). When you get a small tattoo like this, you should expect that it’s going to have some overlap with other people’s tattoos — this is an unavoidable truth. Sometimes it happens because of shared inspiration, sometimes it happens because they were inspired by you or vice-versa, and sometimes it’s going to be pure “great minds think alike”. I can’t emphasize this enough — when you work with traditional motifs, it is unavoidable that you will eventually see someone who at first glance appears to have “stolen” your tattoo. It’s not the end of the world though — your tattoo is just as wonderful as it was before you saw its doppelganger.
Certainly you have the right to get upset if someone copies your large original custom tattoo line for life. But if someone just does something similar — for example, an anchor on a neck, or a flower on a nipple, or a blackwork arm — you don’t have the right to be upset or to accuse them of wrongdoing. I think if you let yourself find fault and trauma and upset in such casual similarities, you are asking for misery. It is not worth it — better to celebrate the other message this sends: that we are on the same team, and have an aesthetic agreement about what is beautiful.
(Click through to view the image.)
Edit: I wanted to also mentioned this nipple tattoo, which is more likely a copy, rather than just being similar. I think in this one’s case, one of the two was almost certainly inspired by the other. However, because this type of flower is common on flash sheets and is a traditional design, it is impossible to tell for certain unless someone admits it.