Boiler Plate Inked: Copyright Actions Brought by Tattooists Threaten Athlete Endorser Publicity Rights

Thomas A. Baker III and Natasha T. Brison

Originality is “[t]he sine qua non of copyright” (Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Ser. Co., 1991, p. 345), meaning without originality there is no copyright. Yet, what if original work capable of copyright protection existed on the bodies of celebrity athletes? Should courts use copyright law to protect the copyright owner at the expense of the athletes’ right to control the commercial use of their own bodies? These are the issues presented in Solid Oak Sketches, LLC v. Take- Two Interactive Software, Inc., (2016), a copyright action brought by tattooists against video game producers concerning ownership of original tattoos featured in sport video games. The tattoos at issue in Solid Oak Sketches are on the bodies of NBA stars LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kenyon Martin, DeAndre Jordan, and Eric Bledsoe. 

Open Access