The makers of hit basketball game series NBA 2K are being sued over their use of real life players tattoos within the game!
Developers of the NBA 2K video game series, Take-Two Interactive and Visual Concepts, are being sued over their use of player tattoos within the latest editions of the game. Solid Oak Sketches, a company that owns the rights to a number of NBA players tattoos, filed suit in New York federal court claiming that the tattoos depicted in NBA 2K16 are copyrighted to them.
The eight tattoos reported in the suit include some of those belonging to NBA superstars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Solid Oak Sketches acquired the copyright of a number of player tattoos last year and even reached out to Take-Two Interactive and Visual Concepts in July to come to some form of arrangement over the use of copyrighted tattoos. However the game developers failed to get back to Solid Oak Sketches, hence the lawsuit.
While it seems a little odd that a third party can have ownership of something etched onto someone elses body the lawsuit claims that “tattoos are original works of art,” and thus are “entitled to full protection of the copyright laws.” However with no real legislation relating to copyrighting in regards to tattoos some suggest that Solid Oak Sketches may not have a true claim.
In light of the debate some lawyers have argued for people having an 'implied licence' over their own tattoos. Even though the work might technically be copyrighted, to restrict an individual from appearing in public places, or profiting off of his or her own body, would be a violation of personal freedom that trumps the alleged infringement. -(Quartz)
A similar situation arose back in 2013 when tattoo artist Christopher Escobedo was awarded $22,500 (£15,500) after suing game manufacturer THQ over their use of his tattoos on UFC fighter Carlos Condit on THQ's UFC Undisputed games. The creator of Mike Tyson's famous face tattoo was also awarded compensation after contacting Warner Brothers Studios over actor Ed Helms' character in The Hangover Part II and the face tattoo the character gets!
The rise in tattooed related copyright lawsuits has even led the NFL to encourage players to get copyright waivers or licenses for any new tattoos to stop any future legal troubles.
Whatever the outcome of the Solid Oak Sketches lawsuit it's clear that game developers are going to have to be extra cautious over inclusion of real life tattoos. The case also raises the question of tattoo ownership in a wider context. Who does the tattoo actually belong to, the artist or the person whose skin its done on!