Mike Tyson's tattoo artist filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros. in April for copyright infringement for replicating his tattoo on Ed Helms' face in their upcoming film, "The Hangover Part II," and now it's possible that the film's May 26 release could be delayed.
S. Victor Whitmill, the Missouri artist who tattooed Tyson's face in Las Vegas in 2003, claims that he retained the copyright to the image, which is tattooed on the boxer's face, reports the New York Times. He is reportedly seeking to block the production company from using the tattoo in ads for the film and is demanding monetary damages for what he calls "reckless copyright infringement." The lawsuit will be taken up out of court next week.
In the movie, which is set for release during Memorial Day weekend on May 26, the four stars(Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms and Justin Bartha) travel to Bangkok for Stu's wedding. Helms plays the character who famously lost a tooth in the first film and ends up with the Maori-inspired face tattoo the eve of his wedding in the sequel. Tyson makes an appearance in both the sequel and the original movie, playing himself.
"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," the complaint read.
On Friday, Warner Brothers sent a brief to Judge Catherine D. Perry which states that any delay in releasing the film would have "huge economic costs" and argues that there is no legal precedent for the case and that Whitmill's suit is based on 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."
Warner Bros. also referred to the "fair use" law in their brief, which would potentially give them the right to parody the well-known tattoo.
Legal experts say that the suit isn't frivolous, but there is an issue of how far copyright holder's rights go when the art is on someone else's body, since "ownership" of a tattoo would more commonly refer to the person who had the art put on their body. It is also unlikely that the lawsuit will lead to a delay in "The Hangover Part II" release date.
In the first R-rated comedy movie, which hit theaters in 2009, hijinks ensued when the four main characters arrived in Las Vegas for a bachelor party ahead of the wedding of Doug, played by Bartha.
"The Hangover Part II" originally featured cameos by former U.S. President Bill Clinton and actor Liam Neeson, however Neeson's cameo as a tattoo artist has reportedly since been cut from the finished film.
Watch a trailer for "The Hangover Part II" below.