Tattoo You

Donna Wentworth writes on Corante > Copyfight > about a lawsuit by a tattoo artist against roundballer Rasheed Wallace, the extraordinarily large human billboard for Nike. Turns out that the pin-and-ink wielding craftsman believes he should get a piece of the action that Mr. Wallace gets from Nike. His artwork, after all, is in the Nike ads along with the rest of the massive Wallace estate.

Wentworth and most of those commenting there are right: This is ridiculous overreaching. The law isn’t exactly clear, however, that the plaintiff is wrong and that this is an obvious work for hire. I say that because I’ve researched the issue: A prospective client wanted to go into this area — not just tattoos, but NBA tattoos! — and not surprisingly he had some hard questions about liability. They didn’t get all that much softer after we researched them.

But it’s the same game over and over again: Rasheed is a money tree and this guy wants to snip off a branch because he fortuitously got to carve something in the bark. He is seeking rent. There’s no right or wrong about it, really, but the rules we decide on probably should address the almost certain expectations of both sides that the deal was a tattoo for $450 — not a one-time license for a “graphic.”

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Ron Coleman

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