A few weeks back, I wrote about the current issue surrounding the facial tattoo that artist S. Victor Whitmill gave Mike Tyson. When Warner Bros. Entertainment was set to release the sequel to the 2009 comedy The Hangover, Whitmill stepped forward to file a copyright claim against the film and Warner Bros for the replica facial tattoo that the film reproduces on the face of actor Ed Helms. For some time, it looked as though Whitmill’s lawsuit was going to delay the Hangover Part II‘s release date of May 26.
Well, Warner Bros suits breathed a collective sigh of relief this week as Chief Judge Catherine D. Perry denied the injunction that would keep the film from screening in theatres on time. Warner Bros. responded to the decision thusly:
”We are very gratified by the Court’s decision which will allow the highly anticipated film, The Hangover Part II, to be released on schedule this week around the world,” the studio said in a statement. “Plaintiff’s failed attempt to enjoin the film in order to try and extract a massive settlement payment from Warner Bros. was highly inappropriate and unwarranted.” The case, however, will continue.
Not too sure that the case was inappropriate. I can’t see exactly what is inappropriate about an artist wanting to prevent other parties from profiting off his work. It seems to me to be a pretty clear case of copyright violation. I’m sure if a studio like Universal went and produced a film that had elements of a film previously produced by Warner Bros that Warner Bros most certainly would be filing a lawsuit of their own. Which is why I’m glad to see that this case isn’t quite over yet. According to Whitmill’s attorney Pete Salsich III:
‘The case was not dismissed, it is not over. In fact, while we were disappointed in the court’s immediate ruling on the injunction, overall we are very pleased with today’s result. The court found that Mr. Whitmill successfully proved what are ultimately the most important factors — (1) a “strong likelihood of success on the merits” of our copyright infringement claim, and (2) that Mr. Whitmill has suffered irreparable harm from the loss of control over his artwork. In so doing, she stated on the record that “Most of the defendant’s arguments against this are just silly. Of course tattoos can be copyrighted.”
All Warner Bros. did was survive our preliminary injunction motion. It will be able to open its movie this weekend so that the thousands of innocent movie theater operators will not be harmed. However, the judge ruled that we would be able to pursue a permanent injunction based on our copyright infringement claims, which we intend to do as soon as possible.’