Ink Not Dry on LeBron Tattoo Lawsuit

  • Sumo
Basketball, by flickr user Ryan Fung, licensed by Creative Commons.

Heating up

The world of video games has become very realistic as technology continues to advance. In the 1980s and 1990s, the additions of player’s actual names in sports games was a huge step to creating a more immersive experience. In the 00’s, the blank faces and stares of old video game character models became much more realistic, if not lifelike, replications of famous athletes. Today, guys like LeBron James in Take-Two Interactive’s NBA 2k series is a dead-on representation, right on down to the tattoos. However, this has now caused a brand new issue and interesting talking point. A tattoo company with copyrighted images of the tattoo work has filed a lawsuit, claiming copyright infringement.  

The tattoo company, Solid Oak Sketches LLC, completed work on popular NBA athletes such as LeBron James and Kenyon Martin. The lawsuit was filed in a Manhattan court and heard by U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain. Take Two is one of the most popular and successful video game brands in the industry today, which pulls in more revenue per year than the film industry. Take Two remains confident that the exact resemblance to the copyrighted tattoos is “fleeting”. No amount of money was specified in the lawsuit, however Solid Oak Sketches is likely seeking substantial money in damages and reparations.

Quite an interesting lawsuit here. There is something to be said about the “likeliness” of a video game “character”, especially if that character happens to be based of a real person. The fact that the person in question is LeBron James, the best basketball player of this generation and a figure known across the world, is a very unique wrinkle here. Very doubtful that the tattoo company would have seen their copyrights being infringed if Take Two was accurately depicting the tattoos of a non-superstar player. Still, this seems headed for a settlement; Take Two has the money to spare and would prefer not to be needled with lawsuits.