Day 6

Why a tattoo company is suing over the rights to Lebron James' ink

Who owns the rights to Lebron James' tattoos? A tattoo company in Delaware says it does. The company is suing the makers of the popular NBA 2K video game for displaying digital replicas of tattoos it designed for basketball star Lebron James.
"I'm going to copyright my lips," joked NBA superstar Lebron James, right, who was unaware of the tattoo lawsuit until asked for his thoughts by a local news outlet on Wednesday. Kobe Bryant, left, has not publicly commented on the situation. (Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

As the NBA's elite gather in Toronto this weekend for the first NBA All-Star game played outside the United States, there's an awful lot of potentially litigious ink on display.

Earlier this month a tattoo company that has tattooed players including Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and DeAndre Jordan filed a lawsuit against the makers of the popular NBA 2K video game series. The lawsuit alleges the game violates the tattoo company's copyright by displaying replicas of the tattoos in the game. 

This isn't the first time this has come up. In 2005, a tattoo artist named Matthew Reed sued Nike over an advertisement featuring former NBA player Rasheed Wallace ... and a tattoo Matthew Reed had inked for him.​

Ultimately, the claim was settled before it went to trial. And 11 years later, lawyers are still trying to sort out how much control an artist should have over his or her work ... when that work is printed on someone else's skin.
Brent Bambury talks to Christopher Sprigman who teaches intellectual property law at the New York University School of Law.