Can one copyright a tatoo?
Note the law review article titled: CREATIVE EXPRESSION AND THE HUMAN CANVAS: AN EXAMINATION OF TATTOOS AS A COPYRIGHTABLE ART FORM, 2013 U. Ill. L. Rev. 279.
The conclusion by David M. Cummings:
"It is difficult to do much better than to state apodictically that a body, even as augmented, simply is not subject to copyright protection." n322 The preceding quote, asserted by Professor Nimmer, implicitly communicates the virtually universal social values regarding individual autonomy and control of the person. It implies that there is no reasoning required, and no formula necessary, for society to simply know that humans are not to be owned in this, or any, manner. It is the utmost priority ingrained in this culture as a fact of our existence that is not up for debate.
What are we to do, then, with the unfortunate artist who chooses [p. 318] the human form as her canvas of choice? Does she not deserve some degree of protection for the works that she creates? The above Resolution reconciles the interests of a burgeoning and increasingly respected art form with the most basic and essential human interests. It does this by examining a body of law that was likely never anticipated to apply to humans in the first place. But, as the parties in Whitmill demonstrated, the actual need to apply the law in this fashion is not impossible, nor is it farfetched.
By balancing important social policy goals, the artist-recipient relationship, and the text of the law, a compromise that protects human rights while supporting tattoos as an artistic genre is indeed possible. By applying the above Resolution with a constant eye towards preserving individual autonomy, the tattoo community will grow in coming years to experience the same "promot[ion of] the Progress of ... useful Arts" guaranteed by the Constitution to other types of artists for over two centuries. n323
Yes, work-for-hire does come up:
In regards to this section, the [p. 288] Act specifically limits the application of works made for hire to nine categories of works. n70 It is not enough, however, that a work simply falls into one of these categories - the language of the Act specifically requires that the parties agree in writing that they intend the work to be designated a work made for hire. n71 Importantly, both parties must sign this written agreement. n72 Nonetheless, courts are split as to whether this agreement must be in writing before the work is created; the only consensus being that some form of agreement - oral, written, or implied - must have occurred before the commission of the work, with a writing being established at a later date. n73