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4 Comments on "Copyrighting Tattoos in Sports Video Games: Can LeBron James License His Image?"

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In a landmark decision in March of 2020, federal judge Laura Taylor Swain ruled that Take Two Interactive Software’s reproduction of Lebron James’ tattoos was fair use and does not infringe on Solid Oak Sketches’ copyrights. Solid Oak Sketches, LLC v. 2K Games, Inc., 449 F. Supp. 3d 333, 353 (S.D.N.Y. 2020). Because the balance of fairness is extremely fact-sensitive, it must be analyzed on a case by case basis. Evaluation of a fair use defense does not hinge on a bright-line rule but is an exploration of four factors: (1) the purpose and character of the use; (2) the… Read more »
So far, the courts have had no problem ruling that the tattoo art design itself is copyrightable and consumes the full scope of protection under copyright law as other copyrightable subject matters. See Tattoo Art, Inc. v. TAT Int’l LLC, 498 Fed. Appx. 341 (4th Cir. 2012) (deciding that a licensee of tattoo art designs infringed the licensor’s copyrights by displaying altered versions of the designs on a website and by continuing to display the designs after the license was terminated.) However, the courts still resist holding that the tattoos on the human body are also copyrightable. See Solid Oak… Read more »
Tattoos are artistic expressions created by talented individuals. They take time, patience, precision, and creativity to complete so it is understandable why tattoo artists are not happy when witnessing their life’s work depicted in movies and video games without being compensated or giving permission for the use. While Courts have acknowledged that tattoo art is copyrightable and deserve the full protection of the Copyright Act, they have been reluctant to rule that tattoos depicted on the human body in a digital medium (such as in video games) is copyrightable. Those who are alleged to have infringed on the the artist’s… Read more »
It is interesting to note that Take Two Interactive was involved in another copyright infringement case regarding the depiction of athletes in their video games. In Alexander v. Take-Two Interactive Software, the plaintiff tattoo artist filed a copyright infringement suit in the Southern District of Illinois against Take-Two Interactive and World Wrestling Entertainment over the depiction of WWE wrestler Randy Orton in the WWE 2K video games. Similarly to Solid Oak Sketches, Take-Two had replicated Orton’s likeness by digitally reproducing his tattoos that were inked by plaintiff for use in their video games. In that case, the defendants filed for… Read more »