Video game featuring LeBron James, Kobe Bryant tattoos sparks lawsuit

Mon Feb 1, 2016 8:37pm EST
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By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Take-Two Interactive Software Inc has been hit with a copyright infringement lawsuit over its depiction of tattoos belonging to National Basketball Association stars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant in a popular video game.

In a complaint filed on Monday in Manhattan federal court, Solid Oak Sketches LLC said Take-Two should pay damages for incorporating eight tattoo designs, which the plaintiff had licensed from various artists, into its NBA 2K16 game.

While "the issue of tattoo copyrightability has yet to be decided upon in court due to numerous settlements," the tattoo artists' works are the kind of "pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works" that deserve legal protection, Solid Oak said.

Among the works in question are the words "Hold My Own" on James' left bicep, a crown with butterflies on Bryant's right bicep, and tattoos on the bodies of NBA players Eric Bledsoe, DeAndre Jordan and Kenyon Martin, according to court papers.

Take-Two has said it sold more than 4 million copies of NBA 2K16 in the first week after its release last Sept. 29.

A spokesman, Alan Lewis, said the New York-based company does not comment on legal matters.

The lawsuit seeks a halt to any infringements, plus damages as high as $150,000 per infringement.

It follows what Solid Oak said was an unsuccessful effort to negotiate a licensing arrangement with Take-Two.   Continued...

Jan 15, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) drives to the basket against Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) in the second half of the NBA game at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports