Videogame Makers Face a Lawsuit Over NBA Ink

Kobe and Lebron's Tattoos Don't Come Cheap

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Virtual reality has lapsed into virtual insanity. Take-Two Interactive and Visual Concepts, makers of the popular video-game franchise NBA2K, are facing a lawsuit over their realistic depictions of Lebron James and Kobe Bryant’s tattoos.

As bizarre as it may seem, Solid Oak Sketches, a company that owns the right to tattoos on NBA players, is filing a lawsuit against the game publisher for failing to obtain licensing rights for these athletes’ tattoos. Solid Oak allegedly offered Take-Two a licensing rights to the tune of $1.1 million dollars, but according to the plaintiff, the publisher never reached out to negotiate an agreement.

Although Take-Two did license the right to represent Kobe and Lebron’s likeness in the game franchise, the ink on their bodies is not included in that agreement. Current U.S. copyright laws assert that tattoo companies and artists retain rights for the tattoos they put on people, and NBA players are no exception.

This isn’t the first time a tattoo company has sued a video game. In 2009, tattoo artist Victor Escobedo successfully sued THQ for recreating his tattoo on UFC fighter Carlos Condit for the company’s “UFC Undisputed” game. Escobedo originally asked for $4.1 million, but the courts mandated that THQ shell out $22,500, which hardly seems worth it considering this was the same amount they paid Condit for his likeness.

Although the allegations could prove devastating for the publishing company, there’s an easy loophole to avoid any copyright infringement. Take-Two could easily recreate similar tattoos on the virtual NBA pros without any big-ticket licensing fees.