Adding players’ real-life tattoos in video games has been more common in recent years as game developers look to make their products more realistic. However, this can develop into a sticky legal situation, as Take-Two Interactive is finding out. A tattoo artist was given permission to proceed in his lawsuit against the developers of NBA 2K, in which he argues that they violated copyright protections he has on his work.

Who is suing Take-Two?

Tattoo artist Jimmy Hayden, who was worked with some of the biggest names in baskeball such as Kyrie Irving, Danny Green, Tristan Thompson and LeBron James, has filed a lawsuit against them in which he argues that Take-Two has violated copyright protections on some of his work by including his tattoos in NBA 2K games without his permission.

Hayden first filed a lawsuit against the developers this past December, but later changed it, and argued that 2K Games and Take-Two put his tattoos in NBA 2K16, NBA 2K17, and NBA 2K18 without his authority to do so.

Even though attorneys attempted to have part of the case dismissed, U.S. District judge Christopher Boyko yesterday ruled that Hayden may proceed to seek claim to statutory damages in relation to copyright violations. However, Boyko ruled that Hayden may only seek to claim damages for the NBA 2K17 and NBA 2K18 games, as Hayden applied for trademarks in 2016 after the release of NBA 2K16.

Other claims made by Hayden were also dismissed, but his attorney, Daniel McMullen, was quite happy about the ending results given out by Boyko. Even though some of his client’s claims were dismissed, McMullen said “We think that preserving the plaintiff’s rights to opt for statutory damages is helpful and appreciate that aspect of the court’s ruling.” He later added, “We view the case as an opportunity for Mr. Hayden to defend and enforce his intellectual-property rights and his original work of authorship from unauthorized use by other parties.”

What does this mean?

For right now, it doesn’t really mean much, as no ruling has been handed out with regards to Hayden’s claims. However, this case should be interesting to watch, as if Hayden wins, it will most likely mean that game developers will have to very careful in adding any tattoos in games, or else they will leave themselves open to a lawsuit.

They already are, and an example of this is in Madden, as just four players in Madden 19 (Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., Martavis Bryant and Derek Carr) had their real-life tattoos in the game. If Hayden wins this case, developers will be even more cautious.


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