“The Hangover 2” opens this weekend, and apparently there is someone besides Mel Gibson who will not be eagerly waiting in line with a bucket of popcorn to get a good seat. In the movie, Ed Helms wakes up in a bathtub and discovers that he has a poorly done tribal tattoo on his face. The joke, of course, is that Mike Tyson—who makes a cameo in the original movie and its sequel—has a much better version of the same tattoo. However, Tyson’s tattoo artist, S. Victor Whitmill, is not amused. In fact, he is suing Warner Brothers for copyright infringement. “Mr. Whitmill has never been asked for permission for, and has never consented to, the use, reproduction or creation of a derivative work based on his original tattoo,” reads the lawsuit. The suit calls for Warner Brothers to cease using the image in posters and in the film itself—impossible, since the movie has already been cut and distributed. Whitmill’s suit could potentially mean postponing the release of the movie, which could cost the studio millions.
But Warner Brothers is fighting back. They filed a brief stating that it’s a “radical claim that he is entitled, under the Copyright Act, to control the use of a tattoo that he created on the face of another human being.” They further that the image is used for the purposes of parody, which means it would be protected under law.
What do you think? Does Whitmill have a point here and deserve some sort of compensation for the use of his design? Or is he just trying to cash in by putting Warner Brothers between a rock and a hard place?