NBA 2K16 Studio Sued Over Some Video Game Tattoos

NBA 2K16 Studio Sued Over Some Video Game Tattoos

If you ever look at your day job and think, "self, I could be making more money", then maybe you oughta consider a career in video game sports tattoo litigation. As ridiculous as that may seem, there's money in it! In 2012, a tattoo artist was awarded over $US20,000 when THQ used one of his trademarked designs in a UFC game. A year later another artist sued EA for using one of his designs — inked on former NFL running back Ricky Williams — without permission.

Now ESPN reports that Solid Oak Sketches, who own copyrights on a number of tattoos they have done for players like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, are suing 2K over their work's appearance in NBA 2K16.

Solid Oak originally offered to licence the art to 2K for $US1.1 million, and are now only suing because 2K didn't take them up on the offer.

It sounds trivial, but then, a tattoo — or at least the kind of ones we're talking about here — is a work of art. You need permission to use logos and photos in a game, so a tattoo should be no different.


    This is a fascinating situation, and makes you wonder whether tattooed sports stars actually even have the right to licence their likenesses at all!

    Does the NBA have to pay them royalties when these tattoos are visible during gameplay?

      That would probably be the angle that I would take if I were on THQs side of the fence

      Did Kotaku pay them royalties for using that image of the tattoos in this story? The mind boggles.

    It would be funny if the NBA player sued the tattoo company for not paying "advertising" space (ie. the tattoo is on their skin so they should be paid each time they go out on court).

    The amount of stuff like this is ridiculous. Judges need to just laugh outright at these idiots and say get lost.

    Isn't this essentially the same as the whole Hangover 2 saga with the Tyson tat? Pretty sure that was settled out of court.

    If i was a tattoo artist i would be more than happy knowing a top athlete/celebrity had some of my work done, i am sure enough people ask them where they had it done so they would get more clients.

    Surely LeBron would have an agreement with NBPA, who in turn would have an agreement with 2K.

    But do Solid Oak have an agreement with LeBron?

    I'm no big city lawyer, but shouldn't Solid Oak be having words with LeBron instead of 2K?

    This is a good thing; copyright law as convoluted as it is deserves to be abused to this degree :)

    My guess would be, that just like the hangover 2 thing, that the issue is that the tattoos are being replicated not merely captured in situ like an NBA broadcast.

    Last edited 02/02/16 4:34 pm

    Surely you lose all copyright claims to a piece of art the moment you permanently attach it to someone's skin? If I buy a piece of physical art would I not become the rights holder and be able to show it to whoever and however I choose?

    So ive been discussing exactly this topic at my work lately. Its a tricky one, id say ultimately the person collecting the tattoo is paying money for it, so they now own it.
    But there are so many people with the same pictures on them its funny! So how does one go about it?!
    The guy has them on him and the game is portraying him in it, as accurately as possible.
    What about silly haircuts?
    Does dennis rodmans hair stylist get to sue all the nba games now too?

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