Can Artists File Lawsuits Over Virtual Tattoos? It’s Complicated

Tattoos are an integral part of many athletes’ images, from idiosyncratic designs like Mike Tyson’s face tattoos to the vast collections of Kenyon Martin and David Beckham. Some artists will not be satisfied if converted to the format of .

Over the past few years, the creators of two major sports titles have battled protracted lawsuits over the right to use tattoos on their players’ avatars. Late last week, his one of those suits was sent to a jury, and the artist was finally paid. It’s not a total win for either side, but it does provide a fascinating case of just how complicated tattoos and copyright can really be.

The athlete here is professional wrestler Randy Orton, a longtime 2K Games character. WWE series. In 2018, Orton’s tattoo artist Katherine Alexander sued 2K’s parent company Take-Two His Interactive for drawing five of his signature tattoos on Orton’s avatar. Take-Two argued that avatars constituted fair use of tattoos, but four years later, a jury ruled denies fair use claims and rewarded Alexander with $3,750.

Without an implied license to tattoos, even taking a picture could be dangerous

This result is LeBron James and NBA 2K game. 2020, Take-Two beat suit Solid Oak Sketches, the tattoo licensing company that holds the rights to James’ ink (yes, it exists). A judge in New York found that the tattoo was used very little (“de minimus” role in NBA2K. On top of that, James had an implied license that allowed Take-Two to make caricatures of him, including his tattoos. seems to have been thrown. omission of player tattoos from the game.

As a Vise Story of 2017 To explain, tattoos are subject to copyright. They are works of art in a fixed medium, even if that medium is someone’s skin. is generally accepted. Otherwise, you may not even be able to take pictures without violating copyright. After all, Orton’s tattoo artist didn’t sue WWE for frequently airing video copies of his art.

A tattoo suit often raises certain questions as to whether the art is separate from the owner’s body. For example, Warner Bros. settled the lawsuit hangover part II We’ve seen characters waking up in copies of Mike Tyson’s tattoos. Studios like this are clearly disputing.If WWE 2Kit’s also complicated by features like Create-A-Superstar, which allows players to mix and match wrestler elements to create unique characters. hangover part IImay not retain its implied license.

Then WWE What is decision? Not necessarily monumental. Penalties aren’t great for Take-Two, but $3,750 isn’t a very scary number for a major game studio, nor is it a very rewarding incentive for other artists to adopt Alexander’s strategy. The jury trial didn’t deliver the detailed rulings that judges might draw in future cases, as in the LeBron James case.

But tattoo artists and avatar technology may soon collide in places other than sports games. Companies behind “metaverse” social platforms are encouraging users, including superstar musicians and other entertainers, to create avatars that look just like themselves. For many, that includes tattoos. That means we may end up with more courts having to address the question of who actually owns the avatar ink.

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