Warner Bros. to release 'The Hangover Part II' on Thursday as scheduled, tattoo case continues


Image Credit: Melinda Sue Gordon

The copyright lawsuit brought against Warner Bros. by S. Victor Whitmill, the tattooist who gave Mike Tyson his Maori-inspired facial tattoo and believed it was illegally reproduced on the face of Ed Helms in The Hangover Part II, will not delay the release of the film. Chief Judge Catherine D. Perry of the Eastern District of Missouri has denied the injunction that would keep the film out of theaters (and cost Warner Bros. millions in marketing). “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.” The case, however, will continue. UPDATE: Whitmill’s attorney Pete Salsich III released the following statement to EW:

The case was not dismissed, it is not over. In fact, while we were disappointed in the court’s immediate ruling on the injunction, overall we are very pleased with today’s result. The court found that Mr. Whitmill successfully proved what are ultimately the most important factors — (1) a “strong likelihood of success on the merits” of our copyright infringement claim, and (2) that Mr. Whitmill has suffered irreparable harm from the loss of control over his artwork. In so doing, she stated on the record that “Most of the defendant’s arguments against this are just silly. Of course tattoos can be copyrighted.”

All Warner Bros. did was survive our preliminary injunction motion. It will be able to open its movie this weekend so that the thousands of innocent movie theater operators will not be harmed. However, the judge ruled that we would be able to pursue a permanent injunction based on our copyright infringement claims, which we intend to do as soon as possible.

Read more:
Artist sues ‘Hangover Part II’ over Tyson tattoo
Zach Galifianakis: ‘My mom is not allowed to see ‘Hangover 2′
‘The Hangover Part II’ Gallery: 6 exclusive portraits

Comments (44 total) Add your comment
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  • PHD

    which you included the specific grounds it was dismissed under

    • Derek

      i imagine it would be bc of teh first amendent and free speech. though it was relicated it is also considered satire so it would prob fall under that.

      • SteveH420

        Derek, not to be the spelling police, but could you PLEASE, for God sake, PLEASE, read your post before you hit the “Post Comment” button? I am too poor to hire an interpreter to decipher your rantings. Now…about the lawsuit…wah,wah,wah. Find a sheister lawyer and you can sue anyone for anything.

    • Rock Golf

      Let me make your “which” come true. From Pop Eater:

      The case hinges on the fact that the tattoo is clearly being used as a parody of Tyson’s.

      “Using the tattoo in the movie is simply part of the joke. It is also transformative in that it makes use of the tattoo in a scene where it adds value to the meaning of the original design,” explains attorney Joey Jackson. “The show will go on as no court will order an injunction.”
      BTW, the tattooist only applied for a copyright last month.

      • Brandy

        Doesn’t matter when copyright is applied for. It was copyrighted the moment it was put down on paper/skin.

      • Uh, no

        Uh, it’s not “copyright” until the proper papers are filed saying so…

      • Sara

        I believe it’s copyrighted when it’s “fixed” (in this case, on paper or skin), but not enforceable / defendable in a court unless the proper paperwork has been filed.

      • eH, sort of

        It’s “copyright” when put down on something tangible, but you must still register for it at Copyright.gov. As for “tangible” I really don’t think, literally, that we can trade off Mike Tyson’s face. Was the tattoo ever placed on paper, or just inked on skin?

      • Cassie


        A Copyright exists the moment it is PUBLISHED at an applicable level – I.E. Mike Tyson’s first PUBLIC appearance or major magazine photo-op.
        A REGISTERED COPYRIGHT is a different thing (circle around an R). Registration affords stronger protection and has recogition in far more courts, including more international courts. Registration of tattoos? ILLEGAL. WON’T HAPPEN. EVER. EVER.
        It’s your body. Tattoo a McDonald’s logo on there if you want. You think they can make you remove it????????????????
        U.S. lawyers are filth.

      • Sara

        Cassie, the symbol for copyright is (C), or a C in a circle. The symbol you’re referring to, (R), is for registered trademarks. The superscript “TM” denotes an unregistered trademark.

      • Munja

        Excuse me but in my opinion that artist doesnt own crap, the minute Mike Tyson walked out his tatoo shop it became Mike’s property. So if Mike gave them permission to use HIS tatoo, artist can just sit and watch.

    • anne

      Probably dismissed under “fair use”

      • Mark Morrow

        Spot on. The tattoo is part of Mike Tyson’s persona, not the artist’s. The parody is of Tyson with reference to his part in Hangover I. The Artist has no case, especially since his registration of the copyright came after the movie was filmed.

    • JJD

      It’s very obvious it’s fair use. The producers are not trying to sell or promote tattoos. It’s like setting an action film in a famous art gallery. If the producers reproduce the copyrighted art so that an actor can pretend to drive a tank through it, the artists have no claim over copyright no matter how long their piece of copied art was onscreen.

      • Mark

        Its not really fair use, fair use is a limited liability term dealing with copy written material not intended to be profited from nor infringing upon or diminishing upon the property owners rights or representations. Since this wasn’t a registered copyright the original artist lost most claims to the piece when Mr. Tyson left his parlor years ago, he can still make claims to be given credit for the design, but he has limited abilities to make claims for settlements due to the fact that he didn’t copyright it before or immediately after it was done. Also, the tattoo isn’t a 100% recreation of the tattoo Mike Tyson has, it is very similar, but the line thicknesses, lengths, and loops are clearly not the same just similar in pattern.

  • Rob

    My thoughts exactly, satire, you can’t sue them for poking fun at you, sorry.

  • Doug

    great, now bring on the movie ! ! ! !

  • ®ustymustdie

    so if I got the same retarded tattoo as tyson on my face this guy would try to sue me?? it’s retarded x 10!!

    • mojojojo

      but you’re not trying to make money out of his design

      • Ryan

        Frankly I don’t see WB trying to make money off his design. They are making a comedic movie and using this as one small joke in an hour and a half long film.

        Not to mention, seeing as how he likely designed this tat FOR Tyson, and Tyson likely paid him for the work and design, shouldn’t it be Tyson who has the rights to the design and image he purchased?

        I’m not honestly sure on the last part, but it also seems clear this guy is simply trying to make a dollar. I mean Tyson has had this tat for how long? This guy sees it being used in a movie in this manner and then files a copyright? I hope this is dismissed and this tat artist goes under. This is yet another stupid lawsuit in the US and I wish failure on anyone who files a frivilous suit.

    • Marty

      No, i bet Warner Bros. would be the one to sue you. They only respect fair use when it’s in their favor.

      • hmmm

        yea, bc you always hear about big companies like warner bros wasting thier time sueing sueing the everyman

  • Joe Camel

    I thought tattoo artists were supposed to be cool.

  • vera

    if you put a tatoo on the face of a “celebrity” your work is going to be seen anywhere and replicated by anyone, that is the risk you run when you put a tatoo on someone famous. the guy is just making a fuss over nothing and he has absolutely no case.

  • Michael

    You create art to be enjoyed and thanks to these movies are being seen, the art is being seen. If you’re going to ink Tyson’s face, are you seriously going to try and track down everybody who takes photos or video of Tyson and claim copyright infringement?

    This is nothing short of a money grab and the only reason why this isn’t over already is likely because the artist and his lawyer is too greedy.

    • goose

      You create music to be enjoyed, so if someone uses it in a movie without paying you, it’s all good right?

  • Corey

    At the end of the day, who cares? The first Hangover was terrible, and not funny. The second will be the same, scene for scene, just different location.

  • Reggie

    irreparable harm? Over a tattoo he created being used? Boo-hoo.

  • MathiasBromage

    There’s nothing worst than some underhanded bastard trying to make a quick buck by sitting on his ass.

    Irreparable harm for using a similar tattoo? Please. My advice to this artist: Don’t say you suffered irreparable harm from your tattoo being used next to a WW2 vet or a holocaust survivor. What a jackass.

  • Sal

    Interesting that this is a Maori tattoo – did the tattooist seek permission from the original owners of the design

  • Movieman1966

    Well, basicly, Mike paid the guy to create a work of art on canvas, the canvas being Mike’s skin. So therefore, the piece of art belongs to Mike. Since it is now Mike’s piece of art, he can do anything he wants with it, including being satirically used in a comedy. The tattooist gave up ownership to the tattoo at the point when the sale was being finalized, which means that he can not do a single thing about the tattoo he created, even if it is being used in a way that he does not approve of.

    The lawsuit is silly. I didn’t see headlines 5 years ago saying “MGM sues high schools using 007 Gun Logo who use it as part of “Class of 2007″ clothing apparel. If MGM thought a lawsuit like that was silly, what right does a tattooist have suing over a tattoo, that isn’t even his own personal property, being used in a movie?

  • Jack Flack

    Unwarranted? You stole his design fer cryin out loud. At least break him off with some loot for using it.

  • Ann

    do they really copied the tattoo of Tyson? For me who cares I just wanted to watch the movie, Not to see the tattoos on his face…

  • Stenny

    It’s not even an original design, it’s a blatant copy of a New Zealand Maori moku. He has not rights to copyright it, because he stole the design.

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