WWE, 2K accused of copyright infringement for Randy Orton’s tattoos

WWE, 2K accused of copyright infringement for Randy Orton's tattoos

The artist of famous Randy Orton’s tattoos reportedly took matters to court against the World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., (WWE) and Take-Two’s 2K Games.

Catherine Alexander, the tattoo artist, is the one challenging the industry giants for her rights on WWE wrestler Randy Orton’s tattoos.

According to The Hollywood ReporterAlexander contacted WWE’s legal team after hearing about the company’s plan to introduce a new product to its merchandise which is a “faux sleeves to be worn by those pretending to be their favorite wrestler.”

She told the company that she’s willing to negotiate for the reproduction of her work, but was just allegedly laughed at.

In a deposition, Alexander testified:

“The person laughed at me and said I had no grounds, and they can do what they want with his images,” She narrated. “He is their wrestler.”

Judge’s decision

Last Saturday, the federal judge in Illinois decided on both Alexander’s motion and WWE-Take Two’s motion.

Accordingly, based on the copy of the case, Alexander as the plaintiff filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgement. Meanwhile, the defendants filed a Motion for Summary.

Judge Yandle granted Alexander’s motion while dismissing that of the defendants.

This means that the judge saw merit, or found that WWE and Take-Two may have indeed copied Alexander’s work for its WWE 2K game series. Moving forward, the case will now be decided by a jury on whether or not this is a case of copyright infringement.

As GameSpot notes, Alexander’s case centers the six tattoos that she inked on Orton’s arm. Furthermore, she contested that she did not give any permission for the reproduction of her work.

Within the case, there is a discussion as to when Alexander would “take issue.” An excerpt of that reads:

“She would ‘take issue’ if any client were to replicate her tattoos in a manner other than in photos or videos, including using her tattoo works to print and sell other commercial items such as T-shirt.”

The defendants argued that there was an implied license given to Orton for the six tattoos. Furthermore, Orton reportedly stated via a declaration discussing that the pro-wrestler “understood the tattoos to be his personal expression and was never told he’d need further permission to make them visible.”

Not a de minimis judgment?

Take-Two and 2K Games are familiar with cases like this, although it appears the results are far different. Accordingly, Take-Two won a similar suit in New York for the depiction of the tattoos on famous NBA players.

A company claimed rights on the tattoos of LeBron James, Kenyon Martin, and Eric Bledsoe. Although, at the time, the New York judge reportedly decided that the display of the tattoos in the NBA 2K games is not “substantially similar.”

Even if the tattoos were indeed copied, the copyrighted material was “de minimis”—minimal. Therefore, for that case “there was a reasonable inference of an implied license.”

Although, it seems that the same judgment may not be heard for WWE.


Featured image courtesy of Megan Elice Meadows/Wikimedia Commons

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