Stephen G. Rickershauser, a law student at Brooklyn Law School, is GSB's spring 2016 legal extern working out of its New York office.
What rights based in copyright law does a tattoo artist have in a tattoo itself, and to what extent can an artist use those rights to restrict the rights of others, including the people whose skin has been inked?
In February, Solid Oak Sketches LLC, a company holding the copyrights to eight NBA players’ tattoos, sued the videogame makers of NBA 2K16 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The Complaint alleged that the videogame makers, Take Two Interactive Software Inc., infringed on the company’s right to license its copyrights in the tattoo designs when the videogame maker depicted the tattoos in its recent game without the company’s permission.
In a case titled Garcia v. Google, Inc., 12-57302, the recent ruling of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers nine states, including California) suggests that an actor has a protectable copyright in the recording of his or her performance. In this case, Cindy Lee Garcia was hired and paid to act in a film entitled “Desert Warrior.” Ms. Garcia’s role was minimal. She was given only 4 pages of script and filmed for 3 ½ days. While “Desert Warrior” was never released, the film’s writer and producer dubbed over Ms. Garcia’s performance and included it in a different film called “Innocence of Muslims.” “Innocence of Muslims” was posted on YouTube. The context in which Ms. Garcia’s performance appeared in the film was interpreted as anti-Muslim by the Muslim community. Following the film’s release and posting on YouTube, Ms. Garcia received death threats. Despite Ms. Garcia’s numerous requests to Google that it remove “Innocence of Muslims” from YouTube, Google refused.
The Sports, Arts and Entertainment Group at Garvey Schubert Barer provides full service legal representation on sports, entertainment and business matters, including handling transactions related to brand management, licensing, joint ventures, venture capital, private equity, technology, the Internet and new media.