Much like the title of this blog posting, the Hangover Part II’s well known controversy regarding the replicating of Mike Tyson’s infamous face tattoo, doesn’t seem to be much about money to me more than it is about the principle of Hollywood respecting copyright.
While the rest of the world was busy Party Rockin’ with LMFAO and recovering from Steve Jobs’ resignation from Apple, the Hangover Part II was releasing in theaters and causing an uproar in the process. The highly anticipated sequel to The Hangover, The Hangover Part II, features the four original cast members — Alan Garner, played by Zack Galifianakis, Doug Billings, played by Dr. Stu Price, played by Ed Helms, and Phil Wenneck played by Bradley Cooper — who have arrived not in Las Vegas this time, but Bangkok for Stu’s wedding.
If you haven’t seen The Hangover Part II, here’s the TLDR: Some white guys get drunk and/or drugged AGAIN, but this time, Stu wakes up with the infamous Mike Tyson tattoo. Yep, that tattoo on his face.
When the tattoo artist S. Victor Whitmill saw his work being depicted in the film on someone other than Mike Tyson in April 2011, he filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros. He sited copyright infringement and sued the studio production company. By June 2011, Warner Bros. Studios had settled in an agreement for an undisclosed amount.
There is controversy about whether or not the tattoo artist was inclined to receive financial compensation for copyright infringement and perhaps he may not have, except, this particular Hangover film was full of copyright faux pas. Handbag designer Louis Vuitton sued Warner Bros. over the usage of counterfeit Louis Vuitton luggage in one of the movie scenes. Even a stuntman was nearly killed while filming The Hangover Part II and took the movie studio to court and was also settled out with an undisclosed amount.
While there is argument about the validity of tattoo artistry as an actual art form, it 100% is. Therefore, in the way a replica of a Banksy or Basquiat or Rembrandt being used for financial gain would be frowned upon, the same should apply in this regard. In the entertainment industry, proper copyright ownership is essential. Whether you’re a tattoo artist, filmmaker, songwriter, music producer or Tik Tok choreographer, it’s important to keep what’s in your safe–safe.