Guy Who Did Mike Tyson's Tattoo Sues Warner Bros. For Copyright Infringement

from the well-that-was-quick dept

It really was just a couple of weeks ago that we asked the (we thought) hypothetical question of who owns the copyright on a tattoo, and noted it would be a good question for a law school exam. We did mention one case, but it was settled out of court. Now we may have another. Apparently the artist who designed the tattoo on Mike Tyson's face is suing Warner Bros. and seeking an injunction to block the studio from releasing the upcoming movie The Hangover 2. In that movie, Ed Helms apparently ends up with a tattoo quite similar to Tyson's (Tyson appeared in the first Hangover movie).
The tattoo artist, S. Victor Whitmill, did in fact register the design with the Copyright Office, and even got Mike Tyson to sign a release making it clear that Whitmill retained the copyright on the work. I would think that Warner Bros. has a number of potential defenses here, including parody fair use. It's certainly difficult to claim that this movie in any way diminishes the market for the original tattoo. My guess is that there may be some sort of quick settlement with Warner Bros. paying off Whitmill to make this go away, which is exactly what Whitmill wants. However, if it does go to court, we can see how good all of you were at answering that law school exam question we posited...


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    Honest Injun, Apr 29th, 2011 @ 6:59pm

    Tattoo ownership

    How will this choad win when he aquired the design from Tā moko, the Māori face marking.

     

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      Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Apr 29th, 2011 @ 9:32pm

      Re: Tattoo ownership

      The same way Disney gets to own the copyright on its derivatives of European, Asian and American folk tales, I guess.

       

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    indeciSEAN (profile), Apr 29th, 2011 @ 7:07pm

    From what I can tell, it's not even a very close replica - I think Warner could easily let this guy try and take them to court, only to be laughed out.

    A shitty tribal tattoo is still just a shitty tribal tattoo, it just so happens few enough people are stupid/crazy enough to put them around their eyesocket and so we recognize what they're going for, with it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 29th, 2011 @ 7:17pm

    Does the artist also get to cash in whenever some entity publishes a picture of Mike Tyson wearing the tattoo in question?

     

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    SUNWARD (profile), Apr 29th, 2011 @ 7:36pm

    simple solution in the future

    actors will not be allowed to have tattoos if they appear in a movie.

     

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    darryl, Apr 29th, 2011 @ 9:25pm

    what so special about it?

    its just a new zealand Maori style tatt, nothing new here

     

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    Oded Burger, Apr 29th, 2011 @ 10:18pm

    Relevant caselaw

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 30th, 2011 @ 11:53am

      Re: Relevant caselaw

      Merely FYI, the rule within the federal courts is that a decision by a circuit court of appeals is binding only with the area of the US where the court has appellate jurisdiction. Presuming the case is pending in California, which is located within the 9th Cirsuit, a decision by the 2nd Curcuit is not binding. Of course, it may be relied upon by any other circuit for its analysis of the legal issues addressed in the opinion.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 30th, 2011 @ 12:27pm

        Re: Re: Relevant caselaw

        Merely FYI, I've never seen so many different ways of spelling circuit in one comment.

         

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    theskyrider, Apr 30th, 2011 @ 3:32am

    Warner Bros deserves it.

    I have no sympathy for Warner Brothers or any copyright maximalist and the organizations they front. (RIAA, MPAA, You name it.)

    They started this with their mine! minE! miNE! mINE! MINE! MINE! crap.

    Let me tell you a story. "Once upon a time, a young girl who also happened to be an aspiring artist, walked into a museum with her sketch pad. She proceeded to sit in front of an artwork and make a copy of it on her pad. As she drew, an evil security guard admonished her for trying to copy famous art. The aspiring artist was not only crushed but escorted from the museum. The end."

    Moral here? You tell everybody everything is copyrighted, (which is what the guard seemed to think), expect to be sued when you copy an idea. They opened this can of worms.

    Making a strong point of copyright (IP) in trade negotiations is why Columbia is getting sued for showing the brief virtual destruction of some some statue in some country in South America.

    Reap what you sow.

    )Pretty soon fart and burp noise styles will be copyrighted and people will be afraid to pass gas in public.(

     

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    MrLemurBoy, Apr 30th, 2011 @ 7:27am

    I know this lawsuit seems silly, but maybe he's just trying to save face.

     

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    NullOp, Apr 30th, 2011 @ 4:55pm

    Tat

    Give it up! Nice try. Just a money grubbing move....again!

     

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    Coughing Monkey (profile), May 1st, 2011 @ 5:24am

    Mike's ink

    If clowns can have their faces patented so may tattoo artists.

     

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    Sailor Jerry's Intellectual Property, May 1st, 2011 @ 6:50am

    (C) copyright mark of the beast on a tatto

     

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    Sailor Jerry's Intellectual Property, May 1st, 2011 @ 6:54am

    (C) copyright mark of the beast on a tattoo

    Dammit! Double post!

    I've seen an arm tatoo that included a (C) symbol, a date, and the tattoo "artist's" name. It was on a guy that I believe to be especially stupid, so I wasn't surprised by it. Especially Stupid Guy got this tattoo at least 8 years ago, in South Western Colorado. The tattoo didn't look particularly original to me, but I'm not an expert.

     

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    Billy Wenge-Murphy (profile), May 1st, 2011 @ 11:05pm

    That's a pretty stupid design; the kind of thing a kid draws in their notebook in math class

    (Am I still allowed to say that when it's "cultural"?)

     

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