An odd legal situation has developed in Hollywood surrounding the Friday release of Todd Phillips’ The Hangover: Part II. As most of us know, Mike Tyson appeared for an extended cameo in the first movie and he shows up again in the sequel. Tyson’s distinctive tribal face tattoo ends up adorning star Ed Helms’ own face for some portion of the movie. This is something that S. Victor Whitmill, the artist who inked Tyson’s tattoo, has a problem with, The Hollywood Reporter reveals.
He ended up filing a lawsuit against Warner Bros. for copyright infringement, claiming that authorization was never given to use his design on Helms’ face in the movie. Whitmill’s lawyers moved recently to have the release of the movie delayed, pending the outcome of the courtroom proceedings, but U.S. District Court Judge Catherine D. Perry didn’t buy it. While she admitted that Whitmill’s case has merit — even going as far as saying she would consider a permanent injunction that would stop the film’s future distribution — she noted that the potential collateral damage to third-party participants, like theater owners, could not be justified.
The studio is pleased with the victory, despite Perry’s assertion that Whitmill may have a winnable case. “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.”
Whitmill’s legal reps are also happy, and willingly admit that Perry’s point about the impact an injunction this week might have on innocents is a sound one. Here’s the Whitmill camp’s official statement: “While we are disappointed that the motion was denied, we are quite pleased by Judge Perry’s findings that Mr. Whitmill proved a “strong likelihood of success” on the merits and that most of Warner Bros. defenses were ‘just silly.’ Judge Perry recognized copyright law protects tattoos and that Warner Bros. had no permission to use Mr. Whitmill’s artwork in the movie. We look forward to further vindicating our client’s rights at trial in the near future, including a permanent injunction preventing further distribution of the movie. In her decision, the judge expressed concern about the potential harm that could be suffered by all of the theater operators if the movie could not open this weekend. We certainly understand. These are innocent third parties put in this position by Warner Bros.?”
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