There are no shortage of new problems technology has introduced into the world, but notionally there are some things that should be exempted from that principle, and for many young people, video games is front of mind as an example. The internet and smartphones may provide new ways to spy on us or hack our personal information along with their provided benefits, but there would seem to be little downside to the exponential improvement in video games over the course of this century. The load faster and look better than ever before, and with hundreds of millions of dollars poured into hardware and game development, we start to approach something like verisimilitude — which might be a problem, in some cases.
Video game maker Take-Two Interactive, the company responsible for the NBA 2K series, recently won a summary judgement in a copyright case over, of all things, LeBron James' tattoos. Solid Oak Sketches sued the studio for including James' tattoos, as well as the tattoos of Eric Bledsoe and Kenyon Martin, in their character designs for the game — tattoos for which the company claims a copyright on. It's certainly not an issue that would have been raised even ten years ago, when video game makers were still perfecting the ability to make athletes and other real life figures look reasonably close to their actual appearance.
However, the judge in the case was not swayed by Solid Oak's arguments, stating that the tattoos as featured in the game are so small as to be difficult for the average gamer to distinguish as similar to Solid Oak's designs, particularly given that characters in the game are moving constantly and quickly. U.S. District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain also noted that the tattoos are only featured on three players of the hundreds available to players, and that players in the game are obviously only a fraction of their actual size; in short, the small tattoos on small players projected onto a comparatively small television don't measure up to a merit a copyright case.
Still, the case represents a relatively new problem, which is that images and likenesses can be so faithfully reproduced in a digital representation as to even raise the questions of recreated tattoos. As things advance further, will we run into issues about the recreated likeness of the average citizen? LeBron and others licence their image to Take-Two and others as part of the business of modern athletics, but what about companies that don't ask for permission? It could be a slippery sloe, and it remains to be seen if the court is up to the challenge.