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'Hangover 2' Tattoo Battle Not Over Just Yet

The headlines you will see today will reflect that a federal court judge ruled that Warner Brothers' "Hangover 2" will debut on Thursday, thanks to denying an injunction sought by an artist who claimed his tattoo was used in the film without his consent.

Hangover 2
Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Images
Hangover 2

A Warner Brothers spokesman was quick to proclaim that the artist, S. Victor Whitmill, failed in his attempt to "extract a massive settlement payment" that was "highly inappropriate and unwarranted."

A good old frivolous lawsuit, right?

Well, that's not exactly what Judge Catherine D. Perry said about the artist and the tattoo, which was originally done by Whitmill for boxer Mike Tyson and appears on Ed Helms' character in the film.

While Perry did side with Warner Brothers to allow the film to proceed in theatres, part of that decision was based on her belief that independent movie theatre operators would be hurt if the film didn't hit the market.

Perry did say that the artist's facts are pretty clear: Whitmill did create the tattoo for Tyson. Tyson signed a document that gave Whitmill the rights. Warner Brothers never sought approval.

Furthermore, Perry said that tattoos can be copyrighted and perhaps, most importantly, the tattoo wasn't a parody because it was exactly the same artwork that appears on Tyson's face.

In denying the artist his injunction to halt the movie's debut, Judge Perry gave Whitmill a vote of confidence. "I do think that the plaintiff has a strong likelihood of success on the merits, and will probably win the case at trial for money damages."

The two parties have had settlement discussions. The next court action will come on June 17, the day the judge has ordered a scheduling conference.

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