Judge says 'NBA 2K' can replicate LeBron James' tattoos
March 29, 2020 | 9:53pm
Tats all folks.
A Manhattan federal judge has ruled that the company behind the popular “NBA 2K” video games can’t be sued for replicating LeBron James’ tattoo designs.
Judge Laura Swain dismissed the four-year-old lawsuit in an opinion filed Thursday, calling the use of the tattoos “de minimis” — meaning too trivial to merit consideration.
Solid Oak Sketches first sued the games’ maker, Take-Two Interactive, in 2016, claiming its copyright was infringed because players were shown with their distinctive tattoos for which the company holds licenses.
Its New York federal court filing centered on three inkings shown on the video-version of Los Angeles Lakers legend James, named “Child Portrait,” “330 and Flames” and “Script with a Scroll, Clouds and Doves.”
It also fought over a “Wizard” tattoo on former Nets and Knicks star Kenyon Martin — showing a grim reaper holding a basketball — as well as a “Basketball with Stars and Script” on Milwaukee Buck Eric Bledsoe.
Swain noted expert analysis found “only 0.000286% to 0.000431% of the NBA 2K game data is devoted to the Tattoos” which were mostly blurred and blocked by other players.
Her ruling sided with Take-Two, which always argued that the tattoos were fair use because they were no longer the artists’ designs but part of the hoops stars’ likenesses.
The tattoo artists always knew that the stars’ ink would “appear in public, on television, in commercials, or in other forms of media, like video games,” her ruling noted.
The players were then free to use their likeness however they wanted, the ruling stressed, with the trio having given the NBA and Take-Two permission to accurately portray them in the video games.
“Defendants reproduced the Tattoos in the video game in order to most accurately depict the Players,” the ruling noted in ruling for fair use.
Neither Solid Oak Sketches nor Take-Two Interactive could immediately be reached for comment Sunday.