Los Angeles – A request to halt this weekend’s opening of Warner Bros. “Hangover: Part II” was denied today by a federal judge. The sequel to the blockbuster hit, “The Hangover” has been embroiled in a copyright infringement dispute over its use of a tribal tattoo. The judge did, however, say that the lawsuit for damages could still proceed.
We first blogged about this copyright infringement case in early May. Tattoo artist Victor Whitmill, who designed and inked the famous tatoo on Mike Tyson’s face, is suing Warner Bros. for copyright infringement and had originally demanded that the judge block the tattoo from being used in the marketing of the film and in scenes from the film itself. One character in the movie, played by actor Ed Helms, sports the same facial tattoo as a spoof on Mike Tyson, who had a guest appearance in the original movie. Whitmill claims that the tattoo, which was already copyrighted by him, was exactly replicated in the movie sequel and used without his permission.
If Whitmill’s allegations of infringement do make it to trial, the main issue in the litigation will be whether or not copyrighted images on the human body can be protected and enforced. This is not the first time that a tattoo artist has sued to protect their copyrighted artwork. In 2005, a tattoo artist filed a copyright infringement claim against Detroit Piston’s forward Rasheed Wallace and Nike because his copyrighted work, which was inked on Wallace’s arm, appeared in Nike advertisements. The lawsuit was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
Judging by the outcome from the Wallace lawsuit, things may look good for Whitmill as far as a settlement goes. Although the movie release was not halted, perhaps the judge’s decision to allow the release will pay off financially for Whitmill.