Tattoo artists beware, you may have just granted a non-exclusive license

The tattoo-copyright-ownership debate still rages on (or maybe not quite a rage but a debate no-less). Big decision last week from the Southern District of New York on whether or not a video game company can appropriate tattoos on athletes for use in video games. In brief, the answer is, yes.

“Here, the undisputed factual record clearly supports the reasonable inference that the tattooists necessarily granted the Players nonexclusive licenses to use the Tattoos as part of their likenesses, and did so prior to any grant of rights in the Tattoos to Plaintiff.”

And because video game companies license their rights from sports leagues, like the National Basketball Association, who gets rights to sublicense players’ rights, the video game companies are in the clear.

Perhaps more interesting is how the Court also stated that the use of a couple of tattoos, smaller in size, in shifting formats during the video game, was also de minimis and thus together constituted fair use.

More here. Opinion here.