Mike Tyson's Tattoo Artist Files Lawsuit To Block THE HANGOVER 2's Release

We've heard of lawsuits ordered because of copyright infringement written from ink on screenplays, but one ordered because of ink on an actor's face is a new one entirely. The Hollywood Reporter broke the sensational story yesterday that S. Victor Whitmill, an award-winning tattoo artist who created the Mike Tyson face design which Warner Bros haven't been shy in promoting that Ed Helms' character gets replicated in The Hangover Part II, has called for an injunction to block the release of the sequel in the U.S. on Memorial Day weekend. Er, good luck with that but it does sound like he has a solid case and perhaps a large financial compensation might be forthcoming? Read on after the jump for the full details... THR have obtained the complaint which was filed at a federal court in Missouri on Thursday;
"When Mr. Whitmill created the Original Tattoo, Mr Tyson agreed that Mr. Whitmill would own the artwork and thus, the copyright in the Original Tattoo, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. €” without attempting to contact Mr. Whitmill, obtain his permission, or credit his creation €” has copied Mr. Whitmill's Original Tattoo and placed it on the face of another actor ... This unauthorized exploitation of the Original Tattoo constitutes copyright infringement."
On the complaint Whitmill attaches the original copyright registration for the Tyson tattoo from 2003, plus a signed release from the boxer granting the rights to the artist. Whitmill is challenging the use of the tattoo in the film and for it's use in WB's posters and trailers, where it's used in every one featuring Helms' character. WB declined to comment publically on the issue. Although not exactly the same design, the one featured in the sequel is definitely supposed to look like a cheap knock-off amateurish version (i.e. - the kind you would get when drunk in Bangkok) and with Mike Tyson having played a large supporting part in the first film, it's hard for WB to argue against what they were doing. However, although I'm no legal expert, wouldn't this constitute parody which would be free from copyright law, somewhat? I can't say for sure though and I would love for someone to clarify. I doubt very much Whitmill has much chance in blocking the release of The Hangover sequel. WB would never let it come to that. In the long run, they will have plenty of profit (2009's The Hangover grossed $467 million worldwide from $35 million budget) to pay the guy off and indeed they did something similar with The Dukes of Hazzard movie some years back when the author of the source material kicked up a fuss and tried to order a stopping injunction just before it's release. WB simply don't have time for the movie to be stuck in courts and Whitmill has planned this lawsuit for exactly the right moment. But the guy/gal in WB's legal department who didn't check the copyright on the tattoo... I feel for them. I really do. The Hangover 2 will be released on May 30th, probably.
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Matt Holmes is the co-founder of What Culture, formerly known as Obsessed With Film. He has been blogging about pop culture and entertainment since 2006 and has written over 10,000 articles.