LeBron James Testifies in Court Case Regarding Licensing in NBA 2K Franchise

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistAugust 25, 2018

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James argues a call with referee Jason Phillips during the first half of Game 4 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Friday, June 8, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James testified Friday in a lawsuit filed by Solid Oak Sketches against Take-Two Software.

In 2016, Solid Oak Sketches filed a suit against Take-Two Software for including certain players' tattoos in the NBA 2K video game franchise. The company argued it was copyright infringement since it had signed copyright license agreements with the artists who designed tattoos for James and several other NBA players.

According to Eriq Gardner of the Hollywood Reporter, James argued in favor of Take-Two Software on Friday in New York:

"My understanding is that [my] tattoos are a part of my body and my likeness, and I have the right to have my tattoos visible when people or companies depict what I look like. I always thought that I had the right to license what I look like to other people for various merchandise, television appearances, and other types of creative works, like video games."

Kobe Bryant, Kenyon Martin, DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe are among the other current and former players who have had their Solid Oak Sketches tattoos depicted in NBA 2K games.

James expanded further on his point and said he had never been told by a tattoo artist that he needed permission in order to display his ink:

"In the 15 years since I've been playing professional basketball, this case is the first time that anyone has suggested to me that I can't license my likeness without getting the permission of the tattooists who inked my tattoos. No tattooist has ever told me I needed their permission to be shown with my tattoos, even when it was clear I was a public basketball player."

The case is significant since it could lead to similar lawsuits if Solid Oak Sketches are successful.

Per Gardner, Take-Two Software argued that awarding the plaintiff compensation would lead to a "shakedown" whenever players appear on television.

Despite that claim, a judge denied the defendant's request to dismiss the case in March.

James noted that his tattoos are part of his "persona and identity." He added, "If I am not shown with my tattoos, it wouldn't really be a depiction of me."

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