'Hangover Part II' tattoo lawsuit could force Warner Bros. to give Ed Helms total makeover


Image Credit: Melinda Sue Gordon

Take a good look at Ed Helms’ face. His character’s Maori-style face tattoo in The Hangover Part II is at the center of the lawsuit brought against Warner Bros. by S. Victor Whitmill, the artist who famously painted HangoverĀ co-star Mike Tyson with a similar design. Earlier this week, Warner Bros. told a court that it was preparing to digitally alter Helms’ tattoo for the film’s home-video release, if a settlement with Whitmill could not be reached by that time.

The technology to change the tattoo is not complicated, though it’s not cheap either. But how far will Warner Bros. go with it? Is it just a matter of a slight tweak to differentiate the tattoo from Whitmill’s original work? If so, where is the line exactly that would make Helms’ tattoo no longer derivative? Or will the filmmakers start from scratch, and digitally brand Helms with a totally different mark?

“I’m sure they will change the entire thing,” says Larry Zerner, a Los Angeles-based entertainment lawyer specializing in copyright matters. “Just adding a few tweaks to the existing design will not be enough. The practical problem in this case [for Warner Bros.] is that … the judge reportedly said [the lawsuit] had a strong likelihood of success on the merits, so Warner Bros. is probably not going to risk making a small change and hope that the court rules that was enough. The risks of an injunction are way too high.”

In just 14 days of release, The Hangover Part II has grossed $347 million globally.

Read more:
Warner Bros. releases ‘Hangover Part II,’ tattoo case continues

Comments (8 total) Add your comment
  • Derek

    How isn’t the tattoos appearance considered parody.

    • googie

      good point!

    • Maddy

      Well, just because something is used in a humorous way doesn’t automatically make it a parody. I haven’t seen the movie, but I think there needs to be more commentary, social or otherwise, to qualify.

    • Ana

      That’s probably what the filmmakers were going for. The problem is that the artwork belongs to the artist not Mike Tyson and they didn’t get his permission to use it.

  • star jonestown

    This is PR pap reported as a real possibility.

    They will settle – they should have settled months ago.

    It would be way more expensive to change it than it would’ve to have settled initially. This posturing on their part is an empty threat. It would alter the scene’s intent & destroy the integrity of what they made.

  • John Doe

    Serves them right, The Hangover films are absolutely horrible.

  • donald Aros

    is the tattoo artist going to pay the maori artists that he “borrowed” from?

  • Columns – Bubble Shooter

    This is a nice write-up. I will spend more time studying this subject.

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