EA facing tattoo lawsuit

NFL Street angers tattoo artist

EA is facing a legal battle over the cover of its 2004 title NFL Street, with the tattoo artist behind cover star Ricky Williams' tattoo claiming reproducing an image of his design has broken copyright.

“The artwork from which the tattoo on Mr. Williams' right and left arms was created is original ... and is copyrightable subject matter,” alleged the complaint.


The NFL Street box art

“Electronic Arts … has copied, reproduced, distributed, adapted and/or publicly displayed [Allen's] copyrighted work without the consent, permission or authority of [Allen] thereby directly infringing [Allen's] copyright.”

Stephen Allen, the tattoo artist, became aware of the box art in 2010, six years after the game was released. As well as suing EA for a share of the revenues earned by the game, he is also suing the tattoo's owner Williams, a former Miami Dolphins running back .

In 2011 a similar case arose over boxer Mike Tyson's infamous facial tattoo, after the design was featured in the film Hangover 2. In that case tattoo artist S. Victor Whitmill settled with Warner Bros out of court.

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Latest comments (9)

James Prendergast Process Specialist 8 years ago
Isn't this just a work for hire? Seems like everyone's work is copyrightable these days. I'm charging all the people who end up on medication copyright for using my work from now on!
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gi biz ;, 8 years ago
Does this mean that anyone getting paid to appear on tv and wearing glasses from some known brand is allegedly infringing a copyright and should have asked permission first? x_x
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Damian Connolly Lead Development Engineer, Village Media8 years ago
Williams is a pro football player, so surely he would have already appeared on tv with the tattoo, yet the artist is claiming copyright infringement *now*?
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Martyn Hughes Managing Director, Staggan Interactive Ltd8 years ago
Would this also apply to musicians who have tattoos and appear on album covers etc, or actors who appear on DVD covers, not to mention promotional videos etc...
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 8 years ago
This is stupid... Its a work for hire, you made a tattoo on another persons body, That person can later modify the tattoo or do whatever he wants with it. I feel as in the case with a Tattoo you are giving the perso your artwork, you hold no rights over it and each tattoo is catered towards the persons likes and dislikes. A seriouse overhaul to the copyright law should be made. Im an artist and if I made a tattoo Id be ok with knowing that the artwork is entirely for that person. I mean its rediculouse to sign a tattoo with an artist name. Its stupid to have a tattoo and you cant have pictures of yourself taken anymore because your infringing on some damn copyright.
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James Prendergast Process Specialist 8 years ago
@Rick. I think, if we were to play devil's advocate, the design itself might be able to be interpreted as being allowed to be copyrighted - though I think it's more like fashion where there is no copyright on designs. But when you stick it on a body then it becomes a transformative work anyway since the same tattoo (even if identical - not that they can be) will never look the same in combination with different body types and musculature so any further use (e.g. photos, videos etc,) would be covered under fair use in the US (which obviously doesn't exist in most of the rest of the world).
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Marty Greenwell Senior Software Developer 8 years ago
Come on, let's call an egg an egg. This has nothing to do with copyright and everything to do with money.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Marty Greenwell on 12th January 2013 7:34am

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
Hmm. So, lets say I'm a HUUUUUUGE Ricky Williams fan and got someone to copy that tattoo (I'm not and i didn't). Could I be sued as well for the same thing if i took a pic and posted it online?

Eh, I see this tossed out on its ear if it goes to trial, but let's hold off and see what happens. MAYBE it will end up as an out of court "shut up and take yer money!" signed NDA settlement at best. And wait, it took him SIX years to notice this and to more to file a suit? Guess he's not an NFL Street fan or a gamer with all that tattooing he's doing.

Or not doing, as it's looking like he's wanting a payday plus here...
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gi biz ;, 8 years ago
@Rick Lopez: no, no, you can't! you obviously have the license to have that tattoo, but you never actually own it. Let's just hope the real owner never decides he wants to retire part of it from his client... as someone did with the infamous "other os" option...
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