Is the art tattooed on your own body your personal property to do with what you please? That is the question at hand in one federal case between the makers of the NBA 2K video game and a tattoo shop that has done work for none other than LeBron James.
In fact, LeBron himself recently testified that he felt as though his body art was his to do with as he pleased once it was inked onto his skin and paid for. But the tattoo shop, Solid Oak, says that they did not give permission for the art they had done on LeBron’s body to be licensed in the 2K video games.
“My understanding is that [my] tattoos are a part of my body and my likeness, and I have the right to have my tattoos visible when people or companies depict what I look like,” stated James. “I always thought that I had the right to license what I look like to other people for various merchandise, television appearances, and other types of creative works, like video games.”
Then turning to the matter at hand — a lawsuit brought by Solid Oak Sketches against Take-Two over the NBA 2K video franchise — James adds, “In the fifteen years since I’ve been playing professional basketball, this case is the first time that anyone has suggested to me that I can’t license my likeness without getting the permission of the tattooists who inked my tattoos. No tattooist has ever told me I needed their permission to be shown with my tattoos, even when it was clear I was a public basketball player.”
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the judge in the case has denied a move for dismissal, instead allowing time for more fact-finding on the issue at hand.
On its face this seems patently ridiculous given that money was exchanged for the item in question, therefore Solid Oak wood have no claim to any kind of ownership over tattoos on LeBron’s or anyone else’s body. But just as car manufacturers are trying to make it so you can’t legally work on your own car, it’s not immediately clear what will happen in this case.
No doubt with LeBron testifying on behalf of 2K there will be some significant backing on his side of this debate.