WWE is headed to court over possible copyright infringement.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, an Illinois federal judge handed Catherine Alexander partial summary judgment by determining that WWE and Take-Two Interactive Software, the publisher of the WWE 2K series of video games, had indeed copied her work regarding Randy Orton's tattoos.
A jury will determine whether that rises to copyright infringement. The judge denied the defendants' own motion for summary judgment by deciding that certain questions are triable ones. Those include whether Alexander impliedly licensed Orton to disseminate and display the six tattoos she did for him. The tattoos include tribal tattoos on Orton’s forearm, a Bible verse on his arm, a dove, a rose, and a skull.
Judge Staci Yandle wrote, "It is unclear whether Alexander and Orton discussed permissible forms of copying and distributing the tattoo works or whether any implied license included sublicensing rights such that Orton could give permission for others to copy Alexander’s tattoo works. Thus, the evidence raises a triable issue of fact as to the existence and scope of an implied license and Defendants’ motion is denied as to this affirmative defense. Alexander contends she created the tattoos for the purpose of displaying them on Orton’s body and that Defendants used the tattoos for the same purpose; to display them on Orton’s body in the video games. Alexander also disputes Defendants’ characterization of the size of the tattoos and maintains they are prominently displayed and clearly visible in the video games. These are material factual disputes."
Last March, Take-Two beat a copyright suit brought by a company that claimed to own the tattoo designs featured on the bodies of NBA stars LeBron James, Kenyon Martin and Eric Bledsoe. In that case, the New York judge ruled that the small display of tattoos in a video game weren't substantially similar to what were on the basketball players, and even if otherwise, the use of the copyrighted material was de minimis, there was a reasonable inference of an implied license, and the video game maker also had a good case for fair use.
A trial date was not given.