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Novel Suit Over Tattoos In Video Games Likely To Fade

February 08, 2016

A tattoo licensing firm has filed suit in federal court in New York against a video game company, claiming the game company violated copyright laws by displaying the actual tattoos of NBA stars in their video games. Fenwick partner Jennifer Lloyd Kelly, who leads the firm’s gaming and digital media practice, spoke with Law360 about the case.

The suit was filed by Solid Oak Sketches LLC against Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. It claims that federal copyrights should have prevented Take-Two from displaying the tattoos of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and a number of other NBA players.

Kelly told Law360 that the lawsuit has little chance of succeeding.

"While there has been no decision squarely addressing this issue, allowing a tattoo artist to, essentially, control the use or portrayal of a person's body would be an absurd outcome," Kelly said. "No court is going to allow this."

Case law on copyright protection for tattoos is virtually nonexistent; the closest thing was a preliminary injunction that was issued in 2011 in a case involving the movie “Hangover 2,” in which boxer Mike Tyson’s face tattoo was copied on the face of movie actor Ed Helms. But that case was settled prior to an actual court ruling.

The full article is available through the Law360 website​ (subscription required).​