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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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Companies: warner bros.

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Comments on “Guy Who Did Mike Tyson's Tattoo Sues Warner Bros. For Copyright Infringement”

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26 Comments
indeciSEAN (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

theskyrider says:

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.(

Sailor Jerry's Intellectual Property says:

(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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