S. Victor Whitmill, the tattoo artist who inked Mike Tyson’s famous body art, plans to sue Warner Bros. Entertainment for using a similar design on the face of Ed Helms’ character in the upcoming movie The Hangover: Part 2.
Whitmill filed a Verified Complaint for Injunctive and other Relief in the US District Court on April 28th, seeking to halt the film's release. Whitmill argues that when he created the original tattoo, he retained ownership of the copyright in the image, which Warner Bros. has breached by reproducing the design in the film without obtaining his permission or crediting his creation.
Evidence submitted includes a release form signed by Tyson, which gives the rights in the tattoo to Whitmill.
Mr Whitmill's submission states: “this case is not about Mike Tyson, Mike Tyson’s likeness, or Mike Tyson’s right to use or control his identity. This case is about Warner Bros’ appropriation of Mr. Whitmill’s art and Warner Bros’ unauthorized use of that art, separate and apart from Mr Tyson”. In particular Mr Whitmill highlights both the use of the tattoo throughout the film as well as use in the marketing materials such as posters, merchandise and trailers.
This lawsuit brings up questions on how copyright protects tattoo artists’ designs and what the limits and scopes of the licenses to those designs are given that the artwork is located on a person.
Warner Bros. is yet to comment on their intended response to the lawsuit, but some have speculated that the studio may make an argument based on US fair use provisions such as transformative use (given the context of the tattoo’s use in the movie) or alternatively, that Warner Bros may argue the design is not substantially similar enough to Whitmill’s and constitutes a different artistic work. 
In Australia, tattoo designs that are original and substantive enough are likely to be protected by copyright. If this lawsuit was talking place under Australian jurisdiction, it may be an interesting opportunity for consideration of the fair dealing provisions relating to parody and satire.
 S. Victor Whitmill, Verified Complaint for Injunctive Relief, filed 28/4/2011 at 
 Matthew Belloni, Mike Tyson tattoo artist sues to block hangover, Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/29/us-hangover-idUSTRE73S6XR20110429 (13 May 2011)