Jimmy Hayden, the Cleveland Heights tattoo artists who tattooed LeBron James, Tristan Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Shaquille O’Neal, Dion Waiters and Mo Williams, and Toronto Raptors player Danny Green, has been pushing for a lawsuit against NBA 2K creators, Take-Two Interactive for a couple of years.
As the game makers had copied the players’ tattoos on their computer-generated versions, the case for copyright infringement is solid. Hayden first filed suit in federal court in Cleveland in December 2017 against 2K Games and Take-Two Interactive Software and later said his works were copyrighted in three iterations of the esports game: “NBA 2K 2016,” “NBA 2K 2017,” and “NBA 2K 2018.”
Finally, U.S. District Judge Christopher Boyko ruled that Hayden could seek statutory damages related to the copyright violations that he said Take-Two committed.
“The judge noted, however, that statutory damages and attorneys’ fees could only apply to any copyright violations regarding “NBA 2K17” and “NBA 2K18.” Hayden registered the trademarks for the tattoos in 2016, and the video game’s 2016 edition actually came out the year before.”
While the judge dismissed other claims, Hayden’s attorney Daniel McMullen said, “we think that preserving the plaintiff’s rights to opt for statutory damages is helpful and appreciate that aspect of the court’s ruling.”
“We view the case as an opportunity for Mr. Hayden to defend and enforce his intellectual-property rights and his original work of authorship from unauthorized use by other parties,” McMullen continued.
Athletes, on and off the court, still have their tattooed hands tied. If they don’t own their tattoos, do they get a say?
“My tattoos are a part of my persona and identity,” Lebron James wrote in a declaration of support for Take-Two and 2K Games. “If I am not shown with my tattoos, it wouldn’t really be a depiction of me.”
With eSports aside, athletes are also stuck between tattoo sponsorship contradictions and fines while they play.