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Hollywood is accustomed to lawsuits over salaries, movie credits, even half-baked concepts that become movies. Now a studio may be going to court over the original concept of a tattoo. In “The Hangover Part II,” the character played by Ed Helms wakes up with a permanent tattoo bracketing his left eye, which bears an eerie resemblance to Mike Tyson’s Maori-inspired design tattoo, who is also in the film.

The tattoo artist who designed Mike Tyson’s tattoo claims that it is a copyrighted work and has gone to Federal District Court to stop Warner Brothers from using the tattoo in its movie and posters and demands monetary damages for reckless copyright infringement by the movie company. Legal experts contend that the case could offer the first rulings on tricky questions about how far the rights of the copyright holder extend in creations that are, after all, on someone else’s body.


1. Do you think the tattoo artist will prevail in claim under the Copyright Act? Why or why not?
2. What is the “fair use” defense?
3. Per accounting rules, explain how you would account for the copyright on a tattoo, if the artist is successful in his claim?


Cohen, N. (2011) On Tyson’s Face, It’s Art. On Film, a Legal Issue, The New York Times, May 20 (Retrievable online at