Tattoo Artist Sues 2K Over WWE 2K Tattoo Designs

Published: October 3, 2022 10:54 AM /


Randy Orton making a V sign for Victory Over Cancer

Tattoo artist Catherine Alexander has won a lawsuit against WWE 2K developer 2K for including her designs in its games without her permission. An Illinois jury ruled that Alexander was entitled to damages regarding the use of her tattoos in the wrestling game series, despite 2K's argument that including the tattoos constituted fair use.

Per VGC, this lawsuit began back in 2018, when Catherine Alexander sued 2K over the inclusion of tattoos on the WWE Superstar Randy Orton's upper body in its WWE 2K series. According to Alexander, the tattoos were used without her permission in the games WWE 2K16, 2K17, and 2K18. Naturally, she doesn't make reference to later games, since 2K18 was the latest installment at the time of her filing.

Perhaps somewhat unusually, Alexander actually still holds the rights to the tattoos she designed for Orton. In 2009, she apparently contacted WWE about merchandise featuring Orton's tattoos. She was offered $450 to hand over the rights to the tattoos, which she rejected, meaning she's still the legal owner of the designs.

A mid-shot of Randy Orton holding a championship belt in WWE 2K22, courtesy of Wrestling Game Archive
Randy Orton's tattoos apparently don't constitute fair use. Screenshot courtesy of Wrestling Game Archive on YouTube.

2K's argument in this lawsuit related to the use of Orton's tattoos in accurately recreating the character. The company said that including Orton's tattoos was necessary in order to faithfully and authentically depict the wrestler, and that the inclusion of the tattoos was nothing to do with what Alexander had originally intended for them.

The Illinois jury in charge of deciding the direction of the lawsuit didn't buy this argument, though. They ruled that Alexander should be paid $3,750 in damages, which isn't likely to mean much to 2K, admittedly. The jury also decided that Alexander wasn't due any royalties or other compensation from 2K, since the WWE 2K series' profits didn't directly come from her tattoos.

Remarkably, this actually isn't the first time Take-Two (the parent company of 2K) has faced a lawsuit regarding the use of a sports personality's tattoos. Back in 2020, the company emerged victorious in a lawsuit brought by tattoo company Solid Oak Sketches, who alleged that the developer was using its designs without permission on athletes like LeBron James. It's worth noting that Take-Two won that lawsuit, though, whereas they lost the one brought by Alexander. Will this mean more tattoo artists suing companies for depicting their tattoos in games? We'll have to wait and see. Stay tuned to TechRaptor for more.


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