Take-Two Interactive was sued by Solid Oak Sketches for displaying NBA stars with tattoos that they had inked from Solid Oak's artists. They were suing for $150,000 per infringement. Thankfully, the judge has dismissed the statutory infringement charges.
IGN is reporting that the initial charges against Take-Two Interactive from Solid Oak Sketches was dismissed by U.S., District Judge Laura Taylor Swain in Manhattan, New York. However, Swain still made it known that Solid Oak Sketches can pursue actual damages against Take-Two Interactive for profits lost.
Originally, back in February of this year, it was reported that Solid Oak had sued Take-Two over the depiction of NBA stars in NBA 2K16 that sported tattoos from artists working for Solid Oak Sketches. According to the tattoo parlor, the artists' work is licensed to Solid Oak and therefore any depiction of the tattoos on the body of an individual being displayed publicly for profit owes Solid Oak part of that share.
The tattoo parlor decided to target Take-Two Interactive, the parent company of NBA 2K16's publisher 2K Sports, also known as 2K Games.
Solid Oak was using a previous case as precedent for their suit against Take-Two, namely one where an artist named Chris Escobedo was awarded $22,000 in damages for a tattoo that appeared on a fighter in THQ's UFC Undisputed 3.
While the initial statutory awards may have been dismissed, it's still possible that Solid Oak could walk away with something for their alleged loss of profits.
This sort of legal bullying over real life people appearing in video games could set a very bad precedent for the future of using real people in games. It could also raise the cost both on the development front and the licensing front if Solid Oak Sketches manages to set a new precedent for athletes appearing in sports games.
For instance, if publishers want to avoid getting into future legal scuffles with tattoo parlors they may have to go through the extra process of manually removing tattoos from the individuals either during the 3D scanning process or in the post-scanning process during the texture clean-up phase. The cheaper method would obviously be to have make-up artists cover-up the tattoos before the 3D scan, as opposed to paying artists to manually scrub the tattoos off the individual following the scan.
Alternatively, publishers like 2K Games or Electronic Arts would have to sign new licensing deals that include profit sharing with tattoo artists, which could turn into a whole other can of costly worms.
Ultimately, situations like this simply do not bode well for game publishers or developers. The only thing it does is add costs either to the front end of development for games like NBA 2K when it comes to texture editing, or the back end of production when it comes to licensing fees. Either way, this is just another financial hurdle that inhibits the potential growth of the gaming industry when it comes to using real people in games.
We'll see what sort of effect this lawsuit has on the upcoming NBA 2K17, which will feature Paul George as the cover star for this year's outing.