June 7th, 2019
So, Who Actually Owns Your Tattoo?
Debates like Mike Tyson's tattoo artist vs "The Hangover" movies, and Lebron James' artist vs eSports games, made us ask some tattooers to weigh in.
One of the most famous tattoo copyright cases involved Mike Tyson’s tattoo artist, S. Victor Whitmill, who filed a case against Warner Bros. for using his design on Ed Helms’ character in “The Hangover.” While the dispute was “amicably resolved” – according to the Warner Bros. spokesman, Paul McGuire – the copyright issue is still huge.
Similarly, video games are under copyright heat.
Jimmy Hayden, the Cleveland Heights tattoo artists who tattooed LeBron James, Tristan Thompson, Kyrie Irving, and Shaquille O’Neal, has been pushing for a lawsuit against NBA 2K creators for years. The Take-Two Interactive Software game makers had copied the players’ tattoos on their computer-generated versions, with the thought that the ink was the players’ property. But the debate continues. Are the “property rights” the tattoo artists’?
With eSports aside, athletes are also stuck between tattoo sponsorship contradictions and fines while their on the court. Brought to mainstream attention with JR Smith’s “Supreme” logo tattoo, the NBA threatened to fine him unless he covered it up, while not threatening players with the Nike “Jumpman” logo ink (*cough* Marcin Gortat.) So does the league own the players, whose inked bodies are owned by their tattoo artists?
With athletes caught in the crossfire between their tattoo artists and video game creators, and directors allowed a loose “creative license” for copying a tattooer’s design… who owns what, and who gets a say?
We asked tattoo artists to weigh in.
Tattoo Artists Answer: Who Owns Your Tattoo?
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