If you think you've had a rough couple of weeks, pour one out for THQ. Its stock price did a swan dive on Nov. 5, the same day of a disastrous earnings call that sent up rumors the publisher is trying to sell itself off. Then word passed it was in default on a $50 million credit arrangement. Now it's being sued for unlicensed use of original art. Tattoo art.
Chris Escobedo, owner of Elite Tattoo of Phoenix, Ariz., says THQ stole his artwork when it recreated a tattoo of a lion on MMA fighter Carlos Condit in UFC Undisputed 3 (that's him and the ink, above at left). Escobedo owns that design, and THQ never got permission to use it. A news release by Escobedo didn't specify the amount he was seeking.
If this sounds ridiculous, remember that the folks who made The Hangover 2 got into some hot water with the guy who designed Mike Tyson's distinctive face tattoo (a character got the same tattoo in the flick.) While both sides settled, it appeared likely that the artist would have prevailed in that case. So this is not something THQ can ignore.
And, come to think of it, it's not something any maker of sports video games where real-world athletes and their real-world tats appear. I'm thinking specifically of NBA games. The NBA has a photo day in which every feature of a player's (uniformed) body is photographed up close. I've seen the images. I asked a designer what possible purpose they serve other than to assist video game artists in recreating those tattoos. "Beats me," he shrugged.
I know that some players' tattoos are missing in NBA 2K13; it's possible this is the reason why. But given the enormous volume of body art in that league, it's almost a certainty someone else is going to pinch a publisher for money down the road.