I am not an expert on copyright. I’m the opposite of that. But Dave Fagundes at PrawfsBlawg is something of an expert, and was recently exploring the copyrighting of a nose job. In the process, he meandered into transhumanist territory.

Nose jobs, it seems to me, may well lack originality in the majority of cases.  The point of most nose jobs is not to create a creative or distinctive look, but rather to make the patient’s nose fit some preexisting (usually, smaller) archetype of what a nose should look like.  This is the antithesis of originality; it’s an attempt to make the patient’s nose less, not more, distinctive and original.

It is, however, not descriptively accurate as applied to all nose jobs.  Most nose jobs probably fit this category, but some patients actually do want a nose job to be distinctive and set them apart from the crowd.  Consider, for example, body modification.  This practice involves alterations to the body including piercings, tattoos, and plastic surgery in order to attain outrageous and undeniably distinctive (if often grotesque) results.  This presents a much harder case for the copyrightability of plastic surgery.  If a patient for whatever reason wants to have a nose job to look freakish rather than to fit in, then one might have to concede that there is originality there, and such body modifications may well be copyrightable.

The interesting piece here is that Fagundes is using body modification as the example of a copyrightable extreme because it’s original. But most body mods aren’t original. A tattoo or piercing or surgical process might be original (though there is debate over copyrighting surgical techniques) and a work of art by a specific artist might be original, but to modify someone’s body always relies on previous medical techniques used for novel purposes. How would you copyright shoving silicone under the skin? The idea of it all? The pattern of the silicone? The tools used? The method?

And what about prosthetics. Or cybernetics. I have no idea where this could go.