Tattoo Artist Continues Legal Battle over Art Featured in UFC Branded Video Game

Damon Martin@@DamonMartinContributor ISeptember 11, 2013

Aug 28, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Carlos Condit (pictured) fights Martin Kampmann during UFC Fight NIght 27 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports
Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

A tattoo artist who created an original piece of artwork that was inked into UFC welterweight contender Carlos Condit remains at the center of a lawsuit against THQ, the creators of UFC Undisputed.

Christopher Escobedo began his legal battle when the UFC Undisputed game was released with Condit's lion tattoo inked on his ribs in full view for the entire game.

The precedent Escobedo is claiming is that original tattoo art is protected under the copyright law, and THQ did not have his permission to use the artwork featured in its game.

Since the lawsuit began THQ has gone into bankruptcy, which is where the suit was picked. A U.S. bankruptcy court judge was then asked to value the worth of the tattoo infringement claim against the video game maker.

According to court documents released by The Hollywood Reporter, the judge placed the value of the claim at $22,500—the amount that Condit was paid by THQ for his likeness rights to be used in the game.

This is the first time that a monetary figure has been revealed for a fighter being paid for likeness rights since the UFC began making new video games a few years ago.

The court documents also revealed that 4.1 million units of the UFC Undisputed game had been sold, which is how they valued the settlement amount. They are asking for $4.16 million for the copyright infringement suit.

The debtors (THQ) responded to Escobedo's claims with a very detailed response as to why his lawsuit should not merit a higher value—considering that Condit has not filed suit—and should at least be considered a co-author, given the fact that the tattoo is on his body and was partially his design that the tattoo artist then drew up.

As THQI demonstrated, the value of Escobedo's claim must be reduced to reflect (a) the exceedingly low value of a license of a single tattoo to a game depicting more than a hundred fighters, hundreds of tattoos and songs, and myriad other creative elements, (b) the likelihood that a tattoo on another person's body is not copyrightable, (c) the likelihood that Condit has an implied license to license to THQ his own digital image (including an image of the Lion Tattoo), without restriction by a tattoo artist; and (d) the likelihood that, if the Lion Tattoo is copyrightable, Condit would have to at least be considered a joint author of the tattoo with an equal right to license it to others.

The $22,500 figure was handed over to Escobedo for a settlement amount, but he was unhappy with the verdict and has now filed yet another appeal to the decision. The case will now head to a bankruptcy appellate panel to try to continue his fight.

The new court hearing could then settle once and for all the value of a copyright issue when regarding a tattoo and original art being used or reproduced on television, film or, in this case, a video game.

Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.