A St. Louis federal judge has ruled that "The Hangover 2" can be released on schedule this week despite a tattoo artist's lawsuit over the inclusion of a Mike Tyson-style tattoo on the face of Ed Helms' character.
But the tattoo artist is claiming victory because the judge said he had a strong likelihood of ultimately winning his copyright claim against Warner Bros.
Pete Salsich, an attorney for artist S. Victor Whitmill, said U.S. District Court Judge Catherine D. Perry declined his motion to prevent the release of the film this weekend because innocent third parties — theater owners — would be harmed.
But Salsich said the judge agreed in open court that the copyright claim was strong, saying, "Most of the defendant's arguments against this are just silly. Of course tattoos can be copyrighted."
Warner Bros. said in a statement: "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. 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."
Whitmill contends that the Maori-inspired tattoo was copyrighted at the moment of its creation and that he registered the copyright later. His lawsuit, filed in St. Louis because he now lives in Missouri, sought to stop Warner Bros. from featuring the tattoo in its advertising or in the movie. Whitmill also seeks damages for "reckless copyright infringement."
In the film, to be released Friday, Helms' character wakes up after another rough night to discover the new tattoo. The image has been featured in almost all of the advertising for the film.
Tyson, who appears in the original "Hangover" and its sequel, has stayed out of the legal dispute.