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2K bodyslammed in WWE 2K Randy Orton tattoo case

Digitally replicating an athlete for a game is a tricky thing. As many of them are idolized IRL, developers make sure that their digital counterparts look as legit as humanly possible. Well, maybe that wasn’t always the case with 2K and their WWE 2K franchise. But hey, at least they’re trying now. And those efforts have gotten them into a piledriver because using a tattoo to make a wrestler look extra legit just cost them $3,750 in damages.

If you’re into sweaty dudes pinning each other down on canvas, you might be familiar with Randy Orton. Like many athletes, Orton isn’t unfamiliar with the ink and needle. In fact, Randy has got quite the work of art on his arms and upper back. So to make sure that Orton fans wouldn’t lose their shit over incorrect tattoo usage, 2K copy-pasted that piece of art into some of their WWE 2K games. No biggie, one might say.

But it is a biggie, according to Catherine Alexander. Now, who’s Catherine Alexander, you might ask. Well, Catherine Alexander is the artist behind the tattoo. And she believes that 2K had no right to blatantly use her design in its games. 2K, on the other hand, thought differently, claiming that the use of the tattoo is considered fair use. You know, because the usage was necessary to realistically recreate Orton. They even offered her $450 for the rights back in 2009, so there really isn’t any point whining about it. Objection, your honor!

Randy Orton

Unfortunately for 2K, the jury at the US District Court Southern District of Illinois felt differently and has now ruled in favor of Alexander. Claiming that sales numbers aren’t directly impacted by the usage of the tattoo, Alexander got awarded $3,750 in damages, without any option to ask for further compensation.

Now, realistically, $3,750 is loose change for 2K. Strauss Zelnick regularly finds that between wads of pocket lint. But affordable as this $3,750 fine might be for 2K, having to pay it sets a precedent. It might send out a message to artists around the world who’ve been dealt the same hand in the past.

Then again, Take-Two has seen more favorable outcomes in similar cases in the past. After being sued in 2020 for tattoo designs on NBA stars LeBron James, Kenyon Martin, and Eric Bledsoe, the publisher stepped out of the courtroom a winner.

You win some, you lose some, I guess.