You can bet Warner Bros. was hoping this issue would go away. Just in time for the film's theatrical release last month, tattoo artist S. Victor Whitmill filed a lawsuit seeking damages from the studio for replicating Mike Tyson's tattoo that he designed -- and claims he own's the copyright too -- without his permission. Whitmill sought to have the film barred from release while it was all sorted, and while he lost that battle, he may have won the war.
Hollywood Esq reports in arguing against an expedited trial date which would have seen the studio and Whitmill lock horns in a courtroom as early as August, Warner Bros, in what is seemingly an admission of guilt and a bit of cost control, say they plan to digitally alter the tattoo for the planned December home video release, thus lessening the amount of money Whitmill can claim he's owed for infringement of his copyright. Got all that? So basically, Whitmill can only claim for what he would have earned in licensing his tattoo for the theatrical release, not from any future revenues, because by then Warner Bros. will have changed it enough to keep them legal.
It's a rather unprecedented -- and very, very expensive -- move by the studio (who knows what it will cost to go through the film frame by frame making changes). Typically, Hollywood likes to drag out court cases for years until their opponents give up or can't afford to continue, but it seems Whitmill had everything in order and the studio realized it was probably in their best interest to squash this case as soon as they could. The trial is now set for February 21, 2012 at which time damages and a decision on whether or not to pull the film will be made by a jury. But we'd guess by then Warner Bros. and Whitmill will have come to an understanding and we wouldn't be surprised if an out-of-court settlement is reached. And it may happen. Both sides will meet on June 14th for a mediation and if it goes well, we presume Whitmill will walk away with some cash and WB won't have to tinker with the movie.
It will be interesting to see what the mouthy director Todd Phillips will have to say about this and moreover, just what they will change about the tattoo that is on Ed Helms' face for pretty much three-quarters of the movie (not to mention featured extensively in the marketing materials for the film). What happens in Bangkok, stays in Bangkok but apparently, not this. It looks like the next sequel to the "The Hangover" will play out in the courtroom.