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THQ sued by tattoo artist

THQ sued by tattoo artist

The rights to tattoos generally belong to the artist, not the person they are permanently inked on to.

Embattled publisher THQ is facing a lawsuit from a disgruntled tattoo parlour owner for using one of his designs without permission in UFC Undisputed 3.

The design of the lion tattoo featured on mixed martial arts fighter Carlos Condit is owned by Chris Escobedo who runs Elite Tattoo in Arizona. He is seeking damages for copyright infringement.

Escobedo claims that he would not have agreed to the recreation of the tattoo by one of the game's animators had he been approached by THQ. At a minimum he would have insisted on approving the artwork and receiving some kind of remuneration.

'People often believe that they own the images that are tattooed on them by tattoo artists, said Escobdeo's legal representative Maria Crimi Speth. 'In reality, the owner of the tattoo artwork is the creator of the work, unless there is a written assignment of the copyright in the tattoo art.'

The tattoo artist's position is considered to be a strong one. Although it settled out of court, the makers of the Hangover 2 faced a similar situation for the reproduction without permission of Mike Tyson's facial tattoo in their film. Had it made it to court, legal experts suggest that the film makers would have lost.

This lawsuit comes at a time when THQ is also dealing with tumbling share prices and is continuing to lose money. As a result of its struggles, several of its upcoming high profile releases including Company of Heroes 2, Metro: Last Light and South Park: The Stick of Truth have been significantly delayed.

In the company's Q2 earnings report published earlier this month, it reported a net loss of $21m. One of its highest profile releases last quarter was Darksiders 2, a title that some analysts doubt will break even dispute shipping 1.4 million copies.

23 Comments

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SchizoFrog 19th November 2012, 08:24 Quote
These legal cases are ridiculous. Can I be sued from an architect for drawing or painting an image of his building design?
xtoxm 19th November 2012, 09:06 Quote
'In reality, the owner of the tattoo artwork is the creator of the work, unless there is a written assignment of the copyright in the tattoo art.'

How so? Even acceptance by conduct doesnt mean "i own your body" if the fighter didnt sign a contract in writing id say THQ are in the right. Although the Mike tyson case obviously proves me wrong ...
MjFrosty 19th November 2012, 09:10 Quote
You Americans, you always talk you Americans. And you say things like "let me tell you something", and "I'm going to sue you."

Why don't they sue the channel when his matches are on as well. Their whole legal system cracks-me-up. Sort it out.

Although I have no real sympathy for THQ when they're releasing games like Homefront. I just pray they manage to release Company of Heroes 2.
longweight 19th November 2012, 09:12 Quote
Sounds like THQ are not long for this world.
mclean007 19th November 2012, 09:48 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by xtoxm
'In reality, the owner of the tattoo artwork is the creator of the work, unless there is a written assignment of the copyright in the tattoo art.'

How so? Even acceptance by conduct doesnt mean "i own your body" if the fighter didnt sign a contract in writing id say THQ are in the right. Although the Mike tyson case obviously proves me wrong ...
Uh-huh. Which law school did you go to? IP law varies, but most jurisdictions in my experience would come to a similar result to this (though not all have the litigious culture of the US so it may not result in a law suit!) - much as the artist retains the rights in IP of a painting (you can buy the painting and show it to your friends, but you still need express permission of the artist to sell duplicates or posters of it) or of a mural on a wall (Banksy retains copyright in his graffiti but nobody suggests he owns the wall), the tattooist gives the customer the right to wear the ink on their skin and show it off (including on camera, hence why the TV companies aren't hammered for it), but not to replicate it or to allow it to be replicated by others in the same or other media - so in theory another tattooist shouldn't copy the tatt (though that would be tough to enforce), nor should it be modelled on a video game character, without express prior consent of the artist.
xtoxm 19th November 2012, 10:01 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by mclean007
Uh-huh. Which law school did you go to? IP law varies, but most jurisdictions in my experience would come to a similar result to this (though not all have the litigious culture of the US so it may not result in a law suit!) - much as the artist retains the rights in IP of a painting (you can buy the painting and show it to your friends, but you still need express permission of the artist to sell duplicates or posters of it) or of a mural on a wall (Banksy retains copyright in his graffiti but nobody suggests he owns the wall), the tattooist gives the customer the right to wear the ink on their skin and show it off (including on camera, hence why the TV companies aren't hammered for it), but not to replicate it or to allow it to be replicated by others in the same or other media - so in theory another tattooist shouldn't copy the tatt (though that would be tough to enforce), nor should it be modelled on a video game character, without express prior consent of the artist.

I didnt thats probably the problem :( What i was trying to get across was how can someone copywright something on someones body. Think i need to take in more caffine before i start posting!
veato 19th November 2012, 10:18 Quote
Carlos is going to have a problem when the copyright holder wants his artwork back ;)
TWeaK 19th November 2012, 10:31 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by xtoxm
What i was trying to get across was how can someone copywright something on someones body.

He doesn't have copyright on something on his body, he has copyright on an artistic desigm, which he then applied to the fighter's body.

The question is, however, doesn't a tattoo become a feature of the person it's done on, such that it becomes a part of their likeness and how people recognise them? This could invalidate the tattoo artist's argument - they didn't copy his design, but they licensed the fighter's likeness. Saying that, I sincerely doubt the courts would take it that way.
Dave Lister 19th November 2012, 10:34 Quote
If tattoo's really are art then the artist should be grateful a wider audience is seeing his art ! not being a greedy money obsessed little freak .
VipersGratitude 19th November 2012, 10:43 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Article
dispute shipping 1.4 million copies
fix-the-spade 19th November 2012, 11:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Lister
If tattoo's really are art then the artist should be grateful a wider audience is seeing his art ! not being a greedy money obsessed little freak .

A wider audience seeing the art is irrelevant if somebody else took it and took the money it made as well.

Artists are people, they need to eat too you know.

Re: Reproduction rights. In the US, unless you specifically have it it writing otherwise then the original artist owns all commercial and reproduction rights to anything they produce as long as they live. Whether that's a photo they took of you, a painting you commissioned or a tattoo on your body, you have the license to one copy of that artwork, not to sell trade or reproduction contracts for it.

Tattoo artists are extremely territorial about their work, designs are often unique to one single artist, not the studio, the artist, if he leaves, the inks go with him (or her). Similarly if you want make copies of that design (whether it be on paper, action figures, as a tattooist yourself) you need to get a license and pay your royalties, just like any other piece of intellectual property.
If you don't get a reproduction license then they have the right to chase you, as far as the law is concerned this is little different to making bootleg DVDs.
ya93sin 19th November 2012, 11:31 Quote
"At a minimum he would have insisted on approving the artwork and receiving some kind of remuneration."


There we go, he just realised he could have made some money from this.
ShinyAli 19th November 2012, 12:05 Quote
This is nothing new of course, the Hells Angels sued Disney, "The Angels insignia is trademarked and for 'members only' said the gang's attorney Fritz Clapp.

In 2006, the Hells Angels filed a lawsuit against Disney for using the Hells Angels name and membership images in its script for the film "Wild Hogs."
The gang withdrew the complaint after receiving assurances that its marks would not appear in the film, according Clapp, reported the Financial Times."
Unfortunately, it did not prevent the appalling film "Wild Hogs" being released

The Hells Angels also successfully sued the French design house Alexander McQueen.

"The Hells Angels have settled their lawsuit against the brand as well as Saks Fifth Avenue department store and online retailer Zappos.com. The defendants will pull all merchandise featuring the motorcycle gangs trademark "death's head" insignia, reports New York magazine.
The companies will attempt to recall all merchandise, including rings, dresses and purses featuring the trademarked design and have the pricy items destroyed destroyed."

The name/logo "Hells Angels" and "death's head" insignia are registered trademarks!
Landy_Ed 19th November 2012, 12:06 Quote
By definition, then, even showing that portrait on the article would be a similar breach - digital reproduction of IP?

If the tattoo is transferrable in the game to other characters or likenesses, I'd get the objection because it is the tattoo as a distinct article discrete from the person wearing it. But after some of the abortions that THQ have been responsible, I'm not likely to find that out first hand.
John_T 19th November 2012, 12:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by MjFrosty
You Americans, you always talk you Americans. And you say things like "let me tell you something", and "I'm going to sue you."
...
Their whole legal system cracks-me-up. Sort it out.

A bit of a stupid way to start a personal rant isn't it? Moan about people giving their opinion, then proceed to give your own opinion...

As for their legal system, yes, completely stupid. Quite unlike ours of course, which is always wholly sensible and doesn't continually churn out stupidity after stupidity on a daily basis. I also agree that their lawyers are a bunch of self-interested sharks as well. Again, quite unlike ours, who are all widely noted for being fluffy bunny rabbits whose only interests are public service and the greater good...

[I couldn't see a 'snorts with derision face', but if there was one I'd have inserted it here]
John_T 19th November 2012, 12:32 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by TWeaK

The question is, however, doesn't a tattoo become a feature of the person it's done on, such that it becomes a part of their likeness and how people recognise them?

That would be my argument: How can anyone create a genuine likeness of a modern Mike Tyson without also reproducing his facial tattoos?

I'd fancy my chances of winning that one in court - the only problem would be the expense of having to go to court in the first place. I think in many cases it's not the law itself that is inherently wrong, but that it's simply too much of a financial risk for most people/companies to set the legal precedent.

Law is, unfortunately, a rich man's game.
IvanIvanovich 19th November 2012, 16:05 Quote
I agree it has to do with the persons likeness. Likewise a CGI representation in a game is the same thing as them appearing on filmed media as far as I am concerned. The entire IP system in the US is a joke and should be abolished. These types of lawsuits just waste the time and resources of the courts when they should have better things to do. Even if said tattooist were the best in the world, I would never get any ink done by them since they are such an a$$clown.
YEHBABY 19th November 2012, 18:02 Quote
I watched Carlos Condit fight on the weekend (the MMA fighter with the tattoo). He got a** kicked, just like this money grabber should do in court.
RichCreedy 19th November 2012, 20:51 Quote
I thought if art work was commissioned (tattoo or otherwise) the person who commissioned it is the owner, or is that just uk law ........ ah just looked on ipo site and that is an old law relating to photos,portraits and engravings prior to 1st of august 1989.
LordPyrinc 20th November 2012, 01:23 Quote
THQ should not cave in on this. They are merely making an accurate depiction of the likeness of the MMA fighter. In fact, they should countersue this moron for legal fees. It's not like THQ is using the tattoo on some random fighter. I'm hoping this publicity backfires on Mr. Escobedo and that people boycott his tattoo parlor. He clearly is in this only for money and publicity.
chemo 20th November 2012, 01:41 Quote
i sure would like to tattoo this idiot myself, right on the forehead with a simple four letter word...

if THQ have to pay the idiot anything, itd be a pathetic decision by the court.
fluxtatic 20th November 2012, 05:20 Quote
I suppose I should think myself fortunate that the tattoo on my right arm, I designed myself. The others were stock design (not trashy tattoo parlor flash, mind, but not my design nor the tattooists')

@John_T - I haven't seen the Hangover, but as I recall, the deal was that one of the characters got the same tattoo on his face, in the same place as Tyson. Not that I'm defending the tattooist on that one - it was such generic tribal work that it shouldn't be copyrightable - imagine if some asshole wanted to claim copyright on a barbed-wire arm band tatoo. Or the heart-arrow-Mom tattoo.

My take is the tattooist is a greedy ass, but consensus here seems to agree with that already :)
cookie! nom nom 20th November 2012, 19:21 Quote
can i sue google for having my house design in google street without my permission 0.0

this is just getting silly......
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