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Tattoos + Basketball Stars + Video Games = Lawyers

February 15, 2016
Yolanda M. King

Yolanda M. King

An article by NIU College of Law Associate Professor Yolanda M. King has been cited in a case against a video game manufacturer that claims tattoos displayed on several NBA players portrayed in a video game infringes on a company’s copyrights.

Solid Oak Sketches, the exclusive licensor of copyrighted tattoos which appear on some of the NBA’s most visible stars, including LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, sued Visual Concepts, 2K Games and Take-Two Interactive Software, alleging that the use of the tattoos on the players in the NBA2k16 video game is an infringement of the licensor’s copyrights.

Professor King’s article, “The Challenges ‘Facing’ Copyright Protection for Tattoos” (92 Or. L. Rev. 129 (2013)), is cited on pages 6 and 7 as support for the plaintiff’s allegation that the copyrighted tattoo designs fall under one of the categories of works of authorship of the federal copyright statute.

The high-profile NBA players involved have garnered national coverage of the story from ESPN.

Meanwhile, VICE Sports, which chronicles sports and the role of sports in society, taking readers inside the lives of athletes on and off the field, also interviewed King on tattoo copyright laws.

King, who was recently profiled in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin feature titled “NIU Professor Becomes Expert on IP Tattoo Law,” has become a “go-to” resource for her thought leadership in the area of Intellectual Property Law.

She has written two articles on copyrighting tattoos and the enforcement of tattoo copyrights, with a third article on the application of right of publicity law to tattoos to be published this spring. She also has spoken on the topic as part of a recent symposium at the Columbia Law School, “Copyright: Outside the Box,” which is part of the school’s annual series of copyright symposia.