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Creativity without LawChallenging the Assumptions of Intellectual Property$
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Kate Darling and Aaron Perzanowski

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781479841936

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479841936.001.0001

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Owning the Body

Owning the Body

Creative Norms in the Tattoo Industry

(p.89) 4 Owning the Body
Creativity without Law

Aaron Perzanowski

NYU Press

Aaron Perzanowski’s research on the tattoo industry provides one illustration of this phenomenon. Despite generating billions of dollars in annual revenue, the tattoo industry rarely relies on formal assertions of legal rights in disputes over copying or ownership of the creative works. Instead, tattooing is governed by a set of nuanced, overlapping, and occasionally contradictory social norms enforced through informal sanctions. But tattoo artists opt for self-governance despite the fact that their creations fit comfortably within the scope of copyright protection. This chapter offers a descriptive account, drawn from qualitative interview data, of the social norms that have overshadowed formal law within the tattoo community. It also provides a set of complementary cultural and economic explanations for the development of those norms.

Keywords:   intellectual property, law, norms, copyright, tattoos, creativity, markets, self-governance, communities, incentives

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