Specialist explains child image rights concerning tattoos

The mother of a 4-year-old boy used social media to denounce that a photo of her son was tattooed – without her permission – on the body of a stranger in São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil. The tattoo in question was copied from a photoshoot carried out in January.

In an interview with UOL, Preta Lagbara, a resident of Rio de Janeiro, said that – after being informed by social media friends – she found out that her son Ayo’s picture, taken by photographer Ronald Santos during the photoshoot in the Tijuca Forest, was tattooed on a man’s body.

“I got in touch with the tattoo artist; I sent him a message, and some friends also looked him up, but we didn’t get any response from him. No response whatsoever. I even commented on his Instagram post: ‘Where did you get this photo? How come you tattooed my son’s face?’. At first I even thought it was just an illustrative image, but then I saw that he’d taken part in an award and got second place with this photo,” she says.

Following the lack of a response from the tattoo artist, yesterday she denounced the incident on social media alongside the photographer who took the picture.

“This is 2022 and our images are still being used without consent from us,” said photographer Ronald Santos in a post.

The story went viral on social media. According to Preta, following her post, the tattoo artist sought her out via Instagram messaging, saying he was sorry about the whole thing – and that he had no idea that he’d “hurt her pride with his art.”

“It’s not about his art or his talent – nobody’s questioning that. It’s about him not being able to simply think that, in 2022, people still have the right to take a picture of a random child and to tattoo it on someone’s body. Finding a photo, taking it to a contest, and tattooing it on the body of someone who has never had any kind of contact with the child is absurd, disrespectful, and inhumane. My son is not an animal in a zoo,” she says.

According to Preta, tattoo artist Neto Coutinho explained that he found the image on Pinterest, without knowing whose photograph it was. “There was only one photo there [on Pinterest]. When you click on that photo, the link takes you directly to the photographer. If he [Neto] wanted to get to Ronald, who is a well-known photographer, he could’ve,” she adds.

Preta also says that she received some nasty comments from people after the complaint. According to her, some of the tattoo artist’s colleagues told her that she should “thank him for his art” using her boy’s image.

On social media, Preta said that Ayo’s photoshoot happened after a long chat with her son. She also said that the photographer respected the child’s time and took the pictures patiently, without forcing the boy to do anything he didn’t want to.

Now, assisted by a lawyer, she intends to seek measures to reverse the exposure caused by the tattoo.

“I don't want my son’s face tattooed on anyone’s body, much less on a person who has no kind of bond with him. We want him to either cover the tattoo, or remove it altogether. I don’t know; he’ll have to find a way. I don’t want this tattoo of my son exposed on the body of a person who doesn’t even know me,” she says.

Tattoo artist Neto Coutinho also used social media to give his side of the story. In a post signed by lawyer Gabriel Rodrigues, the tattoo artist expressed “many apologies, especially to parents, family members and the child itself.”

In the post, he acknowledged “the mistake that had been made” and said he did not intend to bring any harm to the people involved. “Furthermore, the artist is fully interested and available to resolve any possible disputes alongside the photographer and the mother of the represented child,” he said.

The tattoo artist also apologized to the black community, which he said he also belongs to. We sought out the artist by email and social media, but there was no response. This space remains open for any statements by him.

What the law says about this case

Luiz Fernando Andrade is a lawyer specializing in intellectual property at Barcellos Tucunduva Advogados. In an interview to UOL, he explained that using a photograph without authorization from the person who took it can be considered criminal copyright infringement.

He also said, however, that using someone’s image without authorization from the portrayed person can be considered a crime if the photo contains nudity or insult, pornography, racism or any other kind of prejudice.

In both cases, the photographer and the person who was photographed may file claims for moral or material damages against the tattoo artist and the tattooed person.

“In the case of a lawsuit against the person who was tattooed, there are certain additional complications due to issues involving their physical integrity. No one can be forced to remove a tattoo, since it is an invasive procedure that affects their physical integrity – so the court order to stop using the image would have to be limited to its exposure on social media and its use in photographs and advertising, for example,” he said.

Source: Portal UOL.