T ake-Two Interactive and Visual Concepts, creators of the popular video game NBA 2k16, have been named as defendants in a copyright infringement suit brought by tattoo company Solid Oak Sketches. At issue are eight tattoo designs that appear on the game’s versions of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. NBA 2k16 graphically represents the portraits of famous NBA players including Bryant and James.  While the creators had attained permission to feature the individual players, they had not attained permission from Solid Oak’s tattoo artists to use the player’s tattoos. Solid Oak alleges that the inclusion of the designs in Bryant’s and James’s portraits violated their tattoo artists’ proprietary rights because the creators did not get permission to exploit the artists’ designs. Legally, the norm is that tattoo artists are the owners of their tattoo designs, not their human canvases, unless stated otherwise. According to ESPN, evidence shows Solid Oak acquired copyrights to the designs in question last year and Take-Two declined an offer from Solid Oak to license the designs prior to 2k16’s release. Given the facts and the legal environment, the case looks grim for Take Two and Visual Concepts, and the two successful companies could be out for millions of dollars.

Read more about the case here

Jennifer Marr is an Entertainment and Sports Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2018).