As a producer of my own copyrighted material it feels almost foolhardy for me to say that much of copyright law is weird and nonsensical and serves people in ways it was never intended. One clear example of that comes in the form of Carlos Condit and the lawsuit he unwittingly found himself at the center of. Readers may remember that way back in November of 2012, Condit’s tattoo artist filed a lawsuit against video game developer THQ over his work being featured in their new UFC video game; and more importantly, over the artist not being compensated for his work being featured in said video game. As a piece of artwork, the design of a tattoo technically belongs to the artist, in a way that is usually reasonable (protection against someone taking a design you created and claiming it as their own, for instance), but in cases like this, gets really kind of weird and creepy.
So weird and creepy (and potentially litigious) in fact, that EA has decided to say to hell with it and erase the tattoo from Condit’s digital body. The Wall Street Journal reports that EA sports will not be including Condit’s lion tattoo emblazoned across his ribs despite the fact that they have apparently successfully jumped through similar hoops for their Madden franchise of video games and are “comfortable with the process” of obtaining licensing rights.
The first major case of tattoo copyright litigation came against the Warner Bros. film The Hangover Part II, and it’s use of Mike Tyson’s signature face tattoo on someone other than Mike Tyson. The artist, S. Victor Whitmill, sued Warner Bros and the case was eventually settled out of court, although the studio was apparently prepared to digitally erase the tattoo from all DVD versions if need be.
Condit’s artist, Chris Escobedo, claims that “they’re doing it without consulting the original artists, and that’s what makes it illegal.” Even within the tattoo indsutry, opinion is fairly divided and some artists claim that they’re a lot less likely to get high end clients if they try and get litigious with their work. Either way, it’s a definite gray area and for better or worse, Carlos Condit is one of the public figures stuck in the middle.
About the author