Tattoo Artist Sues THQ for Copyright Infringement

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Tattoo Artist Sues THQ for Copyright Infringement

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A digital tattoo on Carlos Condit's midriff in UFC Undisputed 3 has sparked a lawsuit against THQ.

When dealing with copyright infringement, it's worth noting that the outright copying of an entire game isn't required to attract lawsuits. Sometimes, the accidental misuse of art assets is enough to get the ball rolling, as THQ recently discovered. Arizona-based tattoo artist Chris Escobedo is claiming that an "exact replica" of his work, a tattoo of a lion specifically, appears on the digital likeness of Carlos Condit in THQ's UFC Undisputed 3. Since the tattoo is prominently displayed on Condit's midriff, Escobedo is asking the courts for all profits associated with the tattoo's use as well as damages.

"People often believe that they own the images that are tattooed on them by tattoo artists," Condit's lawyer stated. "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."

It's reasonable to assume that if copyright infringement has occurred, it probably wasn't intentional on THQ's part. Condit clearly carries the offending tattoo with him at all times and displays it publicly during non-digital martial arts competitions. The larger problem is that unless Condit had some kind of license agreement with Escobedo, many displays of the tattoo fall into a legal grey area. Condit's digital incorporation into UFC Undisputed 3 just complicates an already tricky issue.

This isn't the first time that the unauthorized copying of body art prompted a lawsuit either. Last year, Mike Tyson's tattoo artist sued Warner Bros for displaying Tyson's iconic tattoo on Ed Helm's face in The Hangover 2. Considering the number of tattoo-bearing actors and celebrities in the world today, it's unlikely this lawsuitwill be the last time that the issue goes to court.

Source: Bloomberg, via Eurogamer

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Fanghawk:
The larger problem is that unless Condit had some kind of license agreement with Escobedo, many displays of the tattoo fall into a legal grey area.

I wouldn't say many. Maybe a couple.

Wait...Why exactly is this worth suing over? The guy has a tattoo on him,so they have it in the game. What exactly is the problem here?

Xukog:
Wait...Why exactly is this worth suing over? The guy has a tattoo on him,so they have it in the game. What exactly is the problem here?

Escobedo and his attorney argue that since he has no agreement stating that Condit owns the image Escobedo tattooed on his midriff, the tattoo artist technically owns the image, and must be consulted/compensated for its display use.

"Profits associated with the tattoo.."

Yeah jack shit, people buy those games to play as the fighters, not to admire their tattoos

I imagine this is probably the sort of case that will end up being settled out of court, but I really am curious how much

all profits associated with the tattoo's use

would be determined to be.

Uratoh:

Xukog:
Wait...Why exactly is this worth suing over? The guy has a tattoo on him,so they have it in the game. What exactly is the problem here?

Escobedo and his attorney argue that since he has no agreement stating that Condit owns the image Escobedo tattooed on his midriff, the tattoo artist technically owns the image, and must be consulted/compensated for its display use.

I get it,still sounds like just another pointless cash grab.Besides,what profits would be gained from the tattoo anyway,don't think anyone buys these games to admire tattoos.

Patch to remove tattoo coming, he will now have a tattoo in the same spot that says "GET BENT"

In other news Tattoo artists REGULARY poach each other's work, if not the entire tattoo then just parts of it to add into new work. So are we going to see WAVES of tattoo related lawsuits???

This is ridiculous, Condit gave likeness rights to THQ so he could appear in the game, the tattoo is part of that likeness of Condit. This can't fall under copyright law since that specifies that the artist owns part of the persons body because of the image and has rights to it for the existence of the tattoo, which is illegal in America and the civilized world at large much like branding a person is illegal.

The only reason that Hangover 2 was a problem was because his design was used on a person he did not put the design on, which would be a infringement on the actor or on a digital representation of the actor since it is not a part of his "likeness". The artist has no case because he put that image on a living human being, it wasn't some other artist copying his work that tattooed it on Condit, it was him.

Bullshit.
If people can get away with recreating an artist's life's work just because they copied it onto a smaller canvas with slightly off colours, then THQ can get away with recreating a real person's features onto a bunch of polygons.

So much for being UNdisputed then :/

It's stories like this that make me want to round up all the lawyers in the world and shove them into a volcano or something. Seriously, do they not have something better to do? What's next, plastic surgeons suing movies and TV shows for displaying their work? Give me a break.

This ones a little weird, does that mean any one in a game with a tattoo they did in a game can sue the company? If so that's just stupid. I'd be able to understand is it was a logo or something like CM Punks Pepsi logo tattoo which they replaced in the WWE games but this is just silly.

Silly Artists!
Don't you know that only multi-national corporations can use copyright law to their advantage. And here you are thinking that they can help protect your rights as an artist.

I think it's fun that it is possible to copyright a portion of a person's image because a second party had a part in crafting it. A tattoo becomes a reasonably permanent part of a person once added and to declare that the display of such things requires a license agreement seems silly. It's like a surgeon suing a because patient because they display a surgical scar of their creation.

Owning the image and owning the image as a part of a person are two wildly different concepts. The artist might have rights to the tattoo but that tattoo that is a part of a person's body? The only person who has rights to that is the person who's got to carry the damn thing around.

THQ (I assume) got the rights to use Escobedo's likeness (from him or his management), so shouldn't the tattoo artist be suing them for selling 'his' art without his permission?

You know I can almost imagine this going to its logical extreme...

"Tiger hires attorney to sue Escobedo for unlawful use of his image."

also, Eleuthera's avatar is adorable. *feeds it a carrot*

So go by this logic they can sue the UFC for the TV airing and selling the DVDs of his fights? Seems absurd, how can he claim damages as well? Have his potential customers decided they would much rather gawp at the tattoo in the game rather than have it themselves?

J Tyran:
So go by this logic they can sue the UFC for the TV airing and selling the DVDs of his fights?

What it looks like from other cases is that there is an understood agreement between the client and tattoo artist that their work will be filmed, photographed and such, especially when the client is famous.

THQ however recreated the image, which is where the whole thing gets murky.

Uratoh:

Xukog:
Wait...Why exactly is this worth suing over? The guy has a tattoo on him,so they have it in the game. What exactly is the problem here?

Escobedo and his attorney argue that since he has no agreement stating that Condit owns the image Escobedo tattooed on his midriff, the tattoo artist technically owns the image, and must be consulted/compensated for its display use.

I would argue that the artist has to sue every form of media this Carlos Condit has had his midriff shown. otherwise it is a blatant cash grab.

Fucking petty. More then anything he should see this as free advertising, he doesn't need to sue, no one bought the game for his damn tattoo.

Eleuthera:
THQ (I assume) got the rights to use Escobedo's likeness (from him or his management), so shouldn't the tattoo artist be suing them for selling 'his' art without his permission?

Yep, which is why their suit against THQ is doomed... although I think Escobedo is the tattoo artist and Condit UFC fighter...

Not only is this a retarded, cash grab type lawsuit......it's going after a company on the brink of collapse. It'll be sad if this is what puts THQ over the edge.

If you want my opinion, THQ is in the right here. However, nobody is asking me. The legal system oftentimes favors those with more money, and with THQ falling apart financially, hiring a lawyer to defend themselves against this idiocy isn't one of their priorities.

What about people who design their own tattoos then? I have several friends who drew their own tattoos and then a tattoo artist put them on their body.

Surely the argument is with the fighter or the Fighting organisation who signed the likeness contracts without consulting the tattoo artists?

Regardless, the whole things stinks like week old fish.

Awesome. I dream of a world in which every jackass with a barbed wire tattoo on his/her bicep has to also have a tattooed TOS for the original tattoo or risk being sued (and then that TOS probably needs a TOS of its own and so on...Recursivity FTW!)

Well now it appears as if the glove is on the other foot!
Or something like that.

Generic_Dave:
What about people who design their own tattoos then? I have several friends who drew their own tattoos and then a tattoo artist put them on their body.

Then the tattoo artist has no claim to it.
But imagine if some guy drew a really awesome picture. And then someone recreated it in a game without asking the original artist for permission to do so.

FelixG:
"Profits associated with the tattoo.."

Yeah jack shit, people buy those games to play as the fighters, not to admire their tattoos

Agreed, I admire tatoo artists and plan on getting several but this is just perfectic. If they slapped the tatoo on the box art then fine, fair play, but damages for a blur on a character model, are you serious!? They should have asked for permission, they should put his name in the credits and on the character bio/stat page of the fighter mentioning where he works, that way he may grab a few customers from it but not freaking DAMAGES!!!

Uh what?
I work for a t-shirt company. If a customer comes to me asking for a T-shirt, and then they take the artwork I made for them and put it on business cards, van, bill boards, flyers, ext, and I were to sue, I'm pretty sure I'd get laughed out of court. After all, the customer payed me to provide them artwork. Then again, I have heard stories of other people sued for that reason...

Actually I'm pretty happy if they put it on things that will be seen by other people,
because then people ask "Oh where did you get your artwork made?"

Erm.. Stupid copyright laws strike again? At least it wasn't his barber who sued THQ for copying his work.

Uratoh:

Xukog:
Wait...Why exactly is this worth suing over? The guy has a tattoo on him,so they have it in the game. What exactly is the problem here?

Escobedo and his attorney argue that since he has no agreement stating that Condit owns the image Escobedo tattooed on his midriff, the tattoo artist technically owns the image, and must be consulted/compensated for its display use.

Totally agree with your assessment (so I'm not having a go!).

If this action is successful (which I hope it is not), where will this lunacy end? Could Escobedo demand royalties from the TV network that air the fights? Or the UFC themselves when they host a fight? What about any promo stuff he does that happens to have that tattoo in shot?

I find it odd that he chose to go after a gaming company first (especially one that's about to go out of business!) ... smaller, easier target, perhaps?

The tattoo artist already was compensated when the fighter paid him to draw what he wanted on him. This seems like a money grab lawsuit to me. I don't play any of the games, but has this guy and hit tattoo been featured before? IF so, then this guy really just wants more money now.

Is he suing the sponsors and this show he appears on etc, what about the networks that the fighting is shown on?

...Really? COME ON legal system! It's not like THQ was actually aware they were committing copyright infringement, wringing their hands and laughing fiendishly while they forced the developers to include the damn tattoo. 'Cuase that's REALLY going to draw in the crowds, right?

Whatever you may think of THQ as a publisher, it's sad this is happening to them in their current financial state. Pretty pathetic.

Why couldn't Escobedo be more like that guy whose art was illegally lifted to make the Borderlands 2 reverse cover? That guy was pretty much flattered they used his work (although disappointed they didn't ask him first) and didn't press charges. And because he was so chill about it, Pitchford called him up, and I assume paid him some cash for compensation. That's how it's done.

Random thought: could it be argued that if they depicted him without the tattoo, they're not technically using his likeness?

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