Take-Two Being Sued Over The Use of Tattoos in WWE 2K Series

Take-Two Being Sued Over The Use of Tattoos in WWE 2K Series

The artist inked Randy Orton with six tattoos which are apparently being used without her consent in the games.

The WWE 2K series has been popular among fans of wrestling and the latest installment is WWE 2K Battlegrounds. However, The Hollywood Reporter (Thanks, GamesIndustry.biz) reports that Take-Two Interactive is being sued by tattoo artist Catherine Alexander over the use of her tattoo designs that feature in the series.

Catherine Alexander will be going to court with Take-Two Interactive while challenging the use of six tattoos that she inked on the professional wrestler, Randy Orton. Apparently, these tattoos have been used in the games without her consent. On September 26, an Illinois federal judge handed her partial summary judgment “determining that WWE and Take-Two Interactive Software, the publisher of the WWE 2K series of video games, had indeed copied her work.” This now falls on the jury to decide if it rises to copyright infringement.

This situation has been said to be the first copyright trial to focus on the unauthorized reproduction of tattoos. Randy Orton has stated in a declaration that, “he understood the tattoos to be his personal expression and was never told he’d need further permission to make them visible.”

U.S. District Court Judge Staci Yandle says that “It is unclear whether Alexander and Orton discussed permissible forms of copying and distributing the tattoo works or whether any implied license included sublicensing rights such that Orton could give permission for others to copy Alexander’s tattoo works,”.

When talking on copyright fair use, the judge explains that, “Alexander contends she created the tattoos for the purpose of displaying them on Orton’s body and that Defendants used the tattoos for the same purpose; to display them on Orton’s body in the video games. Alexander also disputes Defendants’ characterization of the size of the tattoos and maintains they are prominently displayed and clearly visible in the video games. These are material factual disputes.”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, in 2009 Catherine Alexander spoke with WWE regarding rumors of a planned distribution of faux sleeves of wrestler tattoos and was willing to negotiate for reproductions of her work. However the company apparently told her “they can do what they want with his images,”.

Take-Two saw a similar lawsuit filed against them back in 2016 over the use of real players’ tattoos featuring in NBA 2K. The claimant was a tattoo studio, Solid Oak Sketches who said that the publisher and developer “knowingly used eight copyrighted designs in the game.” Take-Two argued fair use with the judge ruling in its favor.

It’s certainly an interesting case and we’ll be sure to keep eyes on it for developments. What are your thoughts surrounding this situation?