Artist successfully sues Take-Two for using tattoo designs on Randy Orton in WWE 2K games

Callum Jones

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Artist successfully sues Take-Two for using tattoo designs on Randy Orton in WWE 2K games

Featured Image Credit: STEVE HAAG / Alamy Stock Photo / 2K WWE

A tattoo artist has successfully sued Take-Two, the company that owns the publisher behind the WWE games, 2K.

Catherine Alexander argued that the developers reproduced her work on WWE 2K16, WWE 2K17 and WWE 2K18 without permission.

The roots of this long-standing argument go back to 2009 when Alexander attempted to negotiate a licensing deal with Take-Two Interactive.

The proposed deal would have seen tattoos Alexander inked on pro wrestler Randy Orton between 2002 and 2008 in the game.

However, Take-Two rejected the proposal and instead offered her $450 for the right to use the images.

The tattoo artist ended up rejecting the offer, but the publisher went ahead and used the tattoos in some of their future games anyway.

A court ruled Take-Two used tattoos on Randy Orton in three WWE games without permission. Credit: WENN Rights Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
A court ruled Take-Two used tattoos on Randy Orton in three WWE games without permission. Credit: WENN Rights Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Alexander pursued the matter in court and took her first step to winning the case in 2020, when a judge rejected a request for a summary judgement in Take-Two's favour.

Instead, it ruled that the publisher and WWE did copy her work and that she may have suffered damages as a result.

Part of that 2020 ruling stated: "In particular, Defendants admit that consumer response is a consideration to their development of WWE 2K and the design choices made. They also acknowledge that consumers expect there to be authenticity in the videogames and that WWE would have rejected Orton’s videogame persona if it appeared without his tattoos or appeared with tattoos that were different than Orton’s actual tattoos.

"Additionally, Alexander’s expert addresses the importance of authenticity to drive sales and profits. Thus, an issue of material fact exists as to whether Alexander suffered actual damages based on the value of the infringing use, defeating summary judgment."

The tattoos featured in three games including WWE 2K16. Credit: REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo
The tattoos featured in three games including WWE 2K16. Credit: REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo

The latest ruling issued on 30 September (via VGC) was ruled in Alexander's favour.

The US District Court for the Southern District of Illinois said that the use of tattoos inked by Alexander in the game did not qualify as fair use.

As a result, Alexander was awarded $3,750, in what was deemed a relatively small amount.

The court found that none of the profits earned by sales of the WWE games could be attributed to the presence of the tattoos, so Alexander was not awarded more.

Staggeringly, it is not the first time Take-Two has been sued over tattoos, but it did win against Solid Oak Sketches, in which Solid Oak Sketches claimed they owned the copyrights on tattoo designs seen on LeBron James, Kenyon Martin and Eric Bledsoe in the NBA 2K games.

Topics: Technology, Gaming, WWE

Callum Jones

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