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2K Escapes Lawsuit Over NBA 2K16 Tattoos

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A district Judge has granted a motion to dismiss damages filed against 2K’s parent company Take-Two Interactive, based on the fact that the tattoos in question were first introduced into NBA 2K in 2013, but the designs were not copyrighted until 2015.

Designer, Solid Oak Sketches, filed a lawsuit against Take-Two Interactive for designs that appeared on several players, including LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. They were claiming up to $150,000 per infringement. It remains a possibility, however, that Solid Oak Sketches may still receive compensation for the losses they received since taking out the copyright, but it is unlikely to be in the regions discussed before the judge made her ruling.

The real question remains as to who owns the ink in someone’s skin?

This ruling protects 2K from suffering too much from this particular scandal, but it does not dismiss Solid Oak Sketches’ claim for ownership. Nor should it. If their design were to appear on a T-shirt in game, Take-Two Interactive would have likely already paid them for its usage. However, they have also paid for the players’ image rights, and tattoos come as a part of that package.

There is no easy solution here, but had Solid Oak Sketches’ lawsuit been upheld, it would have set a precedent, and potentially cost Take-Two Interactive millions, if not billions, of dollars.

EA has already been through this conundrum before. Players appearing in their games must get permission from their tattoo designers before they will appear in the game. This is a sensible work-around, and probably something 2K will look at in the future.

But here’s a question to consider: How is this different from a tattoo appearing in a club’s promotional material?

I’m not really sure, but this saga will hopefully end up answering a few more questions than it raises.

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