On the more absurd end of the copyright infringement spectrum lies a new lawsuit against Take-Two Interactive Software, the distributor of video game NBA 2K16. According to the lawsuit, Take-Two has infringed on the copyright of eight tattoo designs by depicting them on LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, both of whom, you know, have the designs tattooed on their bodies. The complaint was filed by Solid Oak Sketches LLC.
The game NBA 2K16 was released in late September 2015, and has sold millions of copies since. Featured in the title are athletes James and Bryant, and as expected, their digital counterparts include their real-life tattoos. Included among the tattoos is “Hold My Own” on James’ left arm and a crown on Bryant's right arm. A total of eight tattoo designs are cited in the lawsuit, which alleges copyright infringement.
According to Reuters, Solid Oak first tried to negotiate a licensing deal with Take-Two for the designs’ depiction in the game. Take-Two was apparently not receptive to such a deal, though details are scarce at this time. The license would have cost $1.14 million, and would have covered all eight tattoos in perpetuity.
If the lawsuit is successful, Take-Two could have to pay damages as high as $150,000 per tattoo, though it is doubtful it will come to that. The issue is a tricky one, and as the lawsuit notes, issues over depicting designs on individuals hasn’t been hashed out in court. While designs themselves are copyrighted, it is questionable whether depicting an individual who happens to sport that design is considered infringement.