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What makes video games great, especially sports-related ones, is the realistic player models thanks to next-generation scanning technology. So now when you play NBA 2K or FIFA, for example, you get every detail including the player’s tattoos, but the body ink that is now the norm is becoming an issue for developers cause the athletes do not own the tats.

Wait… what?

Despite the personal connections the tattoos may have and the fact the athlete might have come up with the idea in their heads, they do not own the ink.

Per The New York Times:

“Any creative illustration “fixed in a tangible medium” is eligible for copyright, and, according to the United States Copyright Office, that includes the ink displayed on someone’s skin. What many people don’t realize, legal experts said, is that the copyright is inherently owned by the tattoo artist, not the person with the tattoos.”

“For most people, that is not a cause for concern. Lawyers generally agree that an implied license allows people to freely display their tattoos in public, including on television broadcasts or magazine covers. But when tattoos are digitally recreated on avatars in sports video games, copyright infringement can become an issue.”

Well damn. This may come as a shock, but the battle for the rights to incorporate athletes tattoos into video games has been going on for some time now. A tattoo artist slapped Electronic Arts with a copyright infringement lawsuit when it used an illustration of retired NFL running back Ricky Williams and his tattoos on the cover of NFL Street. He later withdrew his claim in 2013.

We reported on Solid Oak Sketches suing NBA 2K’s developers over the use of tattoos that it obtained copyrights for in the game. Not all tattoo artist feel the same way, two artists Shawn Rome and Justin Wright who licenesed their work to Solid Oak claim “they had been deceived by its founder, Matthew Siegler, and never desired a lawsuit.”

There is some artist who finds this ridiculous, speaking with the New York Times, Gotti Flores who has spent many hours tattooing NFL athlete Mike Evans said he was “surprised” because he had to give permission for the tats to be used in the game and sign a waiver for no compensation. “Really it didn’t even matter to me. It was dope to have my tattoos on there” he also added.

This all sounds ridiculous, but it’s definitely becoming an issue video game developers are wary of and are tackling ahead of time now.

Photo: Anadolu Agency / Getty

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