Changing industry ethics?

When you first look at these tattoos, maybe the first thing you say to yourself is, “wow, I didn’t know tattoos could shift that much with age!”


But then you realize that the chestpiece is on well known tattoo artist Toni Moore (of Broad Street Studio in Bath) by Tim Kern, and the neck piece is a knock off by Marcel Daatz at Extremetattoo in Munich. I know, not a line-for-line copy, but close enough that if you didn’t look at the pieces side-by-side you could easily assume they’re the same tattoo.s I often have more permissive feelings about copying than many of my friends in the industry, because it’s my opinion that tattooing has always been an artform that is built on appropriation, but this example of tattoo plaigiarism really upset me.

The reason this piece upset me so much is that Marcel Daatz appears to be a talented and capable tattoo artist. There is no need or excuse for him to be knocking off his peers’ work and claiming it as his own. It makes me very sad, and it’s an unfortunate comment on how many of the traditional tattoo culture ethics have been lost as this industry ages. I’m used to crap artists aping the pros. But for talented artists to rip each other off? To have so little respect for each other, for themselves, for the industry? It’s really heartbreaking.

What do you think? Where is the line? Is this an example of a professional backstabbing a peer? Or am I overreacting, and it’s been changed enough, and is instead an example of someone simply drawing inspiration from a well-known tattoo and getting “their own version”?

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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 LLC or the other staff or members of BME. Entry text Copyright © Shannon Larratt. Reproduced under license by LLC. Pictures may be copyright to their respective owners. You can also find Shannon at Zentastic or on Facebook.

18 thoughts on “Changing industry ethics?

  1. In all seriousness… a Skull backed with flowers is hardly inspired work. It’s very likely that it’s coincidence, OR a customer came in describing the design to him after having seen the previous work.

  2. I think it’s most likely coincidence. As Jack already said: a skull with flowers, even a RED skull with flowers, is not that rare.

  3. The thing that makes it rare/unique isn’t that the skull is red or that it’s a skull on flowers, it’s the texture in/on the skull itself. I can clearly see the differences between the two it’s just that the similarities are all of the big things you notice first. Color, type of flowers, texture, all the same …but then you look at the teeth, the shape of the skull, the nose all the little details that are different.

  4. i can see both sides of this but the first thing i thought after reading the article is “are we sure it was INTENTIONALLY ripped off?” if a customer goes in with a picture of the art piece NOT tattooed on someone and says “I’d like this” it’s not down to the tattooist to make sure he isn’t ripping someone else off; they depend on the customers to know if its original and if they have permission from the original artist.

    on the other hand, i would be severely pissed if i had a piece done that was a sort of “one of a kind” and someone else ripped it off.

  5. @ Jack , that’s deffinitly ripped buddy , ok skulls and flowers have been done before , but almost same flowers, , red skull, same sorta texture of the skull, placement of skull and flowers.
    Sorry but it’s ripped …
    I allready dislike it when bad tattooartists steal the artwork of a well skilled artist , and it pisses me even more that even some of the very skilled artistst steals from someone else …

    @ NexiZydrate, If i was a tattooartist i’d ask the client what kind of idea they have in mind.
    But just taking a piece of artwork or printed something and telling they want it like that , i’d just say no …
    I would want my art and my style to spread , not just some copied stuff from someone else …
    Offcourse there are exceptions like if a artist/painter would come in and wants his own art tattooed that’s something else.
    And yes you can clearly see the difference between a true artist/painter than someone with just a copy.
    I think this seperates the regular tattooartist , to the real artists of the tattooworld …

  6. I think it’s sad, really.. But I guess these things happen. This piece, however, has been seen for years over the internet and in tattoomagazines. So in my opinion, it’s a rip off.

  7. If I was a tattoo artist, I wouldn’t go near something as well done as the original. Murphy’s law = yours will probably not be as good. I’ve personally never seen a forgery done better than the original. If someone wanted to copy a bad tattoo and make it better…but when does that happen…

    There’s no reason an artist can’t reinvent the wheel; that’s what tattooing should be about.

    The bigger question is how does the one on the right look with her neck relaxed?

  8. The thing that really bothers me about it has nothing to do with the tattoo artist’s skill – I think a copy like this cheapens the identity of the original client. I have tattooed arms but I do not think of it as “Here are my arms and here is a tattoo on them.” – it is “Here are my arms.” Period. I think that once you are tattooed, that -is- you. It would be like someone getting surgery so their face looked exactly like your face, AND without your permission to boot. I realize that everyone is not a unique snow flake and yeah, you are not going to be the only person on earth with your bird or flower or skull or whatever tattoo, but inspiration is one thing and can be flattering, copying outright is another and it’s selfish and disgusting.

  9. Yeah, I have to say, I’m going to go with a resounding ‘rip-off’ for this one. There is very little chance of this degree of similarity arising out of two people going into different tattoo studios in different parts of the world and asking for a skull with flowers and both of them getting this. No, not buying that. To get this, the second person would have had to have seen this online somewhere and taken a picture of it in with them. Either that, or been able to describe it in vivid detail.

    Here’s the thing though, the world is getting more and more full up with tattooed people. This art form is expanding and it’s not looking like stopping. All the time I’m blown away by the sheer number of amazing artists who are out there, creating amazing works of art which are rightly shown in galleries all over the internet. It’s how I found my favourite artists and made decisions as to who I wanted to be tattooed by. I can’t count the number of times I’ve looked at someone else’s tattoo and wished I had got there first. I’ve never been tempted to get an existing design ‘covered’ by another artist. I try to think of it like all other forms of art. You wouldn’t have seen a Picasso, all those years ago and thought, ‘hey, I like that Picasso, but he’s a bit expensive and I actually like that one that he’s already done. I know, I’ll go to my mate down the road and have him knock out a copy.’ I’d have done what I do now. I save up, plan, contact the artist that I want, arrange consultations and then, after all of it, I end up with my very own work of art, unique to me.

  10. Really? Are we still flogging this dead horse here?

    As soon as you get some nice ink and post pictures online then someone somewhere might go and get something similar. Whilst we might like to think that getting ink makes us a unique and special flower, it doesn’t.

    Why is it that copying other peoples suspensions or innovative piercings is ‘pushing the boundaries’ and yet getting a similar tattoo to something you saw on someone else is ‘copy cat’…seems like a double standard to me.

    Both of those look like well executed designs, to a very high standard, and I am sure both of those customers are very happy with the results. So rather than being negative maybe Shannon should start showing some love for the community.

  11. Inka, I fully agree with you, right down to the condescending air of Shannon’s recent posts. The world is full of much bigger problems than “oh no, someone liked my tattoo more than I would have preferred”.

  12. I’m upset and pissed off, but to be honest its not the first copy iv seen and it wont be a last. its a realy shame that ppl just want to get exact copies of other peoples tattoos, as it kind of goes against getting a tattoo in the first place.

  13. Yo creo que también influyen los clientes que muchas veces solo quieren lo que ven (aunque sea de otro artista) y no dejan mucha mano al tatuador para hacer una obra única pero bueno, mejor ver la parte buena que la mala, son 2 buenos tatuajes

  14. When did it stop being about what the client wants? They have to wear it, right?

    If Toni Moore paid for an original peice of work from Tim and holds the rights to that work then she should seek some form of compensation.

    If not, then boo fuckin hoo

    Out of due respect Marcel Daatz should have asked permission to reproduce Tim Kern’s work and if he couldn’t get it … do something similar for his client (which he seems to have done)

    Theres no point crying over it. its done. move on

  15. I may be missing something here by why is it okay (according to Shannon) for people to ‘copy’ the piercings and tattoos of specific cultural/tribal groups, or famous artists, and yet not okay to see a tattoo you like and get that (or something very similar) on your own body?

    I personally find the images of swastika tattoos more offensive than a copy-cat tattoo of a skull and some flowers. Yes I am aware that the swastika symbol was in use before the appropriation by the nazis..and if any of the people getting that symbol were from a part of the word where it does not have the nazi connection then for me that would be fine, but it seems that it is just western folks trying to reclaim a symbol they never owned in the first place.

    And is the copy-cat modifications based on authentic cultural/tribal customs just another form of western colonialism where we take something to which we have no links whatsoever and commodify it.

    And that nice M C Escher tattoo…well we have to call that a clone now don’t we?

    I am, of course, being deliberately provocative here. I really don’t give a hoot what you do with your own body, because it is YOUR body and you can do as you see fit. I thought that was the guiding principal here at BME.

  16. Personally, if I saw any of my tattoos done on anyone else I would go ballistic. Motives and traditions are different from unique desings, I think Inka is either trying to over simplify or doesn´t see the difference. If this would be a traditional Dayak dog design it would be ok, but if it was Dayak dog done custom with nice abstract colors and unique surface design then it would be a rip-off. Its not hard to see the difference there. About Swastika. It is part of Western culture also, in Finland we have several thousands of years old traditional Swastika design, bet you didn´t know that? Everytime you get a CUSTOM tattoo , you get a one of. If a tattooist has any self respect they will refuse to do a copy of a clearly custom work and rather do their take on the design. I have had the pleasure of telling hundreds of customers why its not a good ida to take someones idea and copy it but it still seems to be hard to understand to some.

  17. Talented as he may be, Marcel Daatz is hardly known for his “cultural ethics”. The guy has WAW (weißer arischer Widerstand, white arian resistance) tattooed on his neck.

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