A Law360 article describes a novel copyright infringement suit that is almost certain to fail. Tattoo artists behind the body art of NBA superstars such as LeBron James are suing Take-Two Interactive Software Inc, the company behind the popular NBA 2K basketball videogames, for accurately depicting the players’ tattoos in the game.
Law360 asked Partner Dean Cheley to weigh in on whether or not the tattoo artists’ copyright claims are a legal swing and miss. “There are a lot of different ways that you can get to the conclusion that this is not copyrightable,” said Mr. Cheley. “This just isn’t the type of thing that the Copyright Act was meant to protect.”
There is very little case law in this area, other than a case involving the depiction of Mike Tyson’s tattoo in the film The Hangover, which settled prior to an actual ruling. However, some experts believe that extending copyright protection to tattoos would set a dangerous precedent, as a person’s body is not a medium over which copyright control can or should be granted. It remains to be seen whether the tattoo artists’ copyright claims will hold up in court.