Chris Escobedo, the owner of Elite Tattoo, has filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court of Arizona for copyright infringement against THQ, Inc., the makers of the hit mixed martial arts (“MMA”) video games UFC Undisputed and UFC Undisputed 3. (United States District Court, Court of Arizona Case 2:12-cv-02470-JAT) Escobedo, who is represented by Maria Crimi Speth of Jaburg|Wilk in the lawsuit, tattooed a large lion on the side of Carlos Condit, the current interim welterweight champion of the UFC. The lion tattoo was Escobedo’s original creation, and it is alleged that it was then re-drawn by THQ’s animators for use in the video games. Escobedo did not authorize the copying of his original artwork.
“I would not have agreed to the recreation of the tattoo by an animator,” says Escobedo, who explains that if he had been approached by THQ to license the tattoo, at a minimum he would have insisted on approving the artwork and being fairly compensated.
“People often believe that they own the images that are tattooed on them by tattoo artists,” explains Speth. “In reality, the owner of the tattoo artwork is the creator of the work, unless there is a written assignment of the copyright in the tattoo art.” Escobedo and Condit never had a written agreement. Thus, claims Escobedo in the lawsuit, he remains the owner of the copyright over the image he drew.
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