EA and CLC Settle Player Likeness Lawsuit

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Posted September 26th, 2013 at 3:45 pm

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Soon after the news broke that EA was ending their college football series a release was made regarding the settlement of the player likeness lawsuit that was at the center of the entire situation that threatened the future of college video games and still could take down the NCAA as it remains as the lone defendant. Games were just a small part of the claim in which players believe they are entitled to a share of broadcasting and merchandising revenues. 

From the press release: “Today’s settlement is a game-changer because, for the first time, student-athletes suiting up to play this weekend are going to be paid for the use of their likenesses…Based on this settlement and other recent court rulings, EA Sports has agreed to change the way it develops future games featuring NCAA athletes in order to protect the rights to their likenesses.”

Of course “changing the way it develops future games” is what will make it unfeasible for EA to continue the series or any other company to consider it in the future. The terms likely identified rosters and making them completely random while stripping out the ability for consumers to edit names and share them.

With those restrictions in mind a college video game would not be viable fiscal investment already. On top of it losing the NCAA and conference branding along with many individual schools is the nail in the coffin. There would be no alternatives either as a “Teambuilder” game would never work – not only would it not sell but it would be a haven for copyright infringement that the company would need to police 24/7 and open themselves to further litigation.

As it stands now there is no hope of any college video games being produced in the foreseeable future. The settlement brings to a close a lot of uncertainty that would have potentially dragged on for over five more years – unfortunately the conclusion is one that leaves college football fans without any video game representations of their favorite sports.

Earlier/Summary Below

The player likeness lawsuit against the NCAA, CLC, and Electronic Arts is the culmination of two high profile filings that were combined as led by Sam Keller and Ed O’Bannon (and O’Bannon now heads it up). It alleges improper use of player likeness through various forms of merchandise and media including video games in which the parties in question conspired to avoid paying players for their rights. Some interesting details and claims regarding the case at hand were revealed when EA was reentered as a defendant after initially being dismissed.

EA originally won a previous case regarding player likeness with the courts ruling video games are artistic works rather than commercial speech and therefore protected by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court in 2011 established forms of media, producing expressive works of art, are not subject to judgments based on incorporating someone’s name or likeness. That dismissed case however, involving Ryan Hart, has resurfaced after an appeals court reversed a decision based on that argument.

Recent uncovered emails have shown that NCAA representatives were well aware that players in games were based off real-life players. At one point the NCAA and EA had nearly reached an agreement to have actual player names included in the products. The EA Locker / Roster Share feature was a fallback option. With momentum clearly on the plantiffs’ side NCAA reps have begun to publicly express concern over the future of collegiate sports. A former EA Sports producer admitted players in NCAA games were based off real athletes.

The discovery of Tim Tebow’s name being in NCAA Football 10 could throw another wrench into EA’s series of arguments. Depositions from former Alabama wide receiver Tyrone Prothro and UConn basketball guard Tate George support the defendant’s reasoning for denying class action certification. The class action hearing resulted in the judge heavily questioning the legitimacy of a potential class and insisting a current athlete be involved. The judge required current athletes be added as plaintiffs for that party to have representation if the case is certified as class action. Six current college football players were added as plaintiffs in mid-July.

EA is now arguing to be dismissed as a defendant in the suit. A major defense for the company however was recently struck down by an appeals court.

This consolidated case in California if certified as class action would go to trial – barring a settlement – and ultimately be the determining factor of how the NCAA proceeds in the future handling broadcasting rights, merchandising, and video games. Should a negative result come down, which one analyst has pegged as being a potential loss of $1 billion for EA, it would likely not just end the NCAA Football series but also with it any realistic possibility of college sports games being made in the future. The trial now is slated to begin June 9, 2014. Appeals following a decision could extend the fight through 2020.

[RESOLUTION] EA and the CLC have settled the lawsuit. EA Sports will no longer produce a college football game.

  • J.T. campbell

    damn all because sum guys that couldnt manage their money and are broke now we have to miss out on a nextgen ncaa football game they need to kill they self today!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Bowinkle82

      so you would let someone make money off of you without getting anything in return o.0

      • MoneyMayweather

        who cares at least I would be famous.

        • Kevin C

          You miss the point, Money. These video games with QB #5 and RE #7 don’t make anyone famous. It’s Teddy Bridgewater and Jadeveon Clowney who make their computer counterparts “famous” and worth coin. That’s why they’re suing. If no one knows you were P #23 on Sucky State U, how will that make you famous?

      • J.T. campbell

        they got a education in excahage thats why you go to college right? dont get me wrong they should be compensated but not in this way

    • A.J.

      what a moronic thing to say

      • J.T. campbell

        moronic? i thought you went to college to get an education? or am i wrong they waited yearsssssssss after they careers were over and the millions they made vanished now you looking for a come up noooooooo freakin way i bet back in the day when they played the games with their friend it was cool but now that their broke they wanna sue not cool in my book

        • SJ13_BILLS

          How do you know they even played games? Contrary to belief, these guys might have been too busy and possibly seen themselves on a relatives screen etc. and finally said “wait a minute, why am I not getting paid for this”.

          • J.T. campbell

            as a kid i remember seeing a special on the ncaa basketball tournament around the time coach K college basketball came out and Ed and Charles Obannon said they play the game and compete against each other thats why i think they play the game SJ13_BILLS its just me im not knocking anyone for feeling they should get paid something but if this happened when the GAMES 1ST came out i would feel the way everyone else feels about this

        • SJ13_BILLS

          Here is another example. You open up GTA V and see your 100% scanned face likeness randomly walking down a side street in Los Santos. Are you not going to call Rockstar on it and get the money you deserve after they turned 3 billion in a little over 3 days?

          • J.T. campbell

            point taken but im not gonna WAIT yrs to do it but you have a real point brah

          • Rebel

            That is not at all the kind of likeness that is in the NCAA Football games. The players have a vague resemblance but it is in no way the “scanned face likeness” you try to pass it off as. Whether or not that qualifies as really using their likeness at all to the courts who matter, we’ll never know since they settled.

  • Kevin C

    Years ago, the very first time I heard that someone was suing EA Sports for using their likeness, it took me all of 10 seconds to realize that person was absolutely correct. I would not have purchased the NCAA games if the player likenesses weren’t like the players! Whether you think the players are being selfish or not is irrelevant. They have the right to decide how their likeness will be used even if they’ve already made a BILLION dollars off of it. It still belongs to them. EA was destined to lose from the start.

  • Keith.

    Can’t wait to hear how many millions EA agreed to pay as part of the settlement. $50 million? $100 million? Hard to think plaintiffs’ counsel would’ve let them out for anything less.

    Having to pay out the nose to settle the lawsuits, AND not having an NCAA game to release anymore, AND having terrible sales with Madden (read yesterday that Amazon’s unloading their copies for $5 in October), AND having FIFA and NHL release around the same time as the GTA V buzzsaw…sure shaping up to be a banner quarter for EA! LOL

    • smsixx

      Madden may not even crack 3.5 million in sales…

      The excuses for “everyone is waiting for next gen” are tiring as well…Madden for PS4 (as of September 21st) only has 70,000 pre-orders…That’s currently 28th place.

      http://www.vgchartz.com/preorders/41539/USA/
      This company has officially buried itself…Next-Gen is not saving this game…or EA.

      • MonoMono

        Shedding Madden would be a smart move at this point, although it would hurt Football fans (someone would pick it up, but the first few iterations of it would be undoubtedly terrible since no-one has an engine just waiting to run a football game). Battlefield, the PopCap market (Plants vs. Zombies 2 is getting high yield), the strength of Need for Speed and a few Bioware titles might change the weather.

        Also @Keith’s comment, GTA V is a bit like the Avengers coming out. Strong enough to be detrimental to not only EA, but any other studio releasing around the holiday season, just like CoD is an annual top seller for Activision (and Battlefield is being billed as for EA).

        Also, we’re still using VGChartz. Thought we were past that.

      • Rocco

        Anyone who uses vgchartz to source anything sales related knows absolutely nothing.

        And to think EA is in trouble…you have to be kidding me? This isn’t anywhere close to the problems companies like THQ, Sega and countless others have encountered. EA is safe; fine we won’t have an NCAA game but they’ll have FIFA and Battlefield for the next five years at least…I doubt their shaking.

        • MonoMono

          NO! STOP IT! Don’t compare EA or sports gaming to other software compaies! Your facts have no place here!

    • Gay

      Yea.. Like EA cant afford 50 or 100 million… They didnt even hand the check to em. They just signed it, brushed it onto the floor.. and walked out.. LIke a Beast.. EA dont give a damn.. Gankstuh… GAY!!

  • Dreneel

    Pasta,

    How long will the rosters share continue on? Damn if they could have waited one year….lol

  • robcoop

    Doomed. This probably means all the online dynasties would end since they are hosted on EA servers. Game changer indeed. Probably will end all-things NCAA relating to EA.

  • J.R

    J.T you’re an idiot

    • J.T. campbell

      im an idiot for stating my opinion? long as they had money they no complaints it was cool if anything sue the colleges that allowed Ea to use the numbers,height,and weight of these player oh thats right the college gave them an education in exchange

  • Sicilian Joe

    Pretty sad that there will be no more NCAA games…I understand the issue here, and agree that it’s bush that the players do not get compensated…but it’s just too bad that some agreement couldn’t be made.

    No more online dynasty with my buddies… :(

    • MoneyMayweather

      saw this coming. Look around they aren’t that many sports franchises left. take two has cancelled almost all of it’s games pro and college EA is the only person left and welp look what happened. It’s pretty sad EA will probably be the only one making sports games in a few years.

  • Welp

    I’m waiting for the “EA is no longer doing the Madden football” news

  • Doc Holliday

    I hope Sam Keller and Ed O’bannon run into an aids tree and die in a dumpster fire.

  • SJ13_BILLS

    It’s laughable how people are so sad about this and writing eulogy’s “Goodby old friend” GET REAL! When did EA actually start working on NCAA to make it any good? SMH, they have had YEARS to make a stellar product and never did even with the tools of this gen and are the epitome of wasting a license and taking it to the consumer blatantly.

    For decades EA has used stats, numbers, skintone etc. to pretty much steal someones on field identity and not pay them for it and obviously knew what they were doing and cashing in all the while screwing everyone out of great games on top of that with blatantly lazy development cycles. Sure NCAA got a decent showing this year, but no way in hell was it the level it should have been PERIOD this generation.

    I compare this to when the villain you hate in a movie, comic book, video game, etc. Finally gets killed off or what’s coming to them and there is a level of satisfaction and accomplishment felt.

    Watching this empire crumble is something I have waited for since they took 2K football or any other CHOICE of an NFL game away from the consumer along with Roger Goodell. Damn right my popcorn is ready, and to quote the great Sam Cook, “Change is gonna come”.

    • Rebel

      The NFL came to EA, not the other way around. Blame the NFL for taking your choices away. EA deserves a lot of the criticism they get, but not on this one.

      • Keith.

        You’re wrong about that — we know for a fact at this point that EA is the one who proposed the exclusive to Roger Goodell. Check footnotes 73 and 78:

        http://easportslitigation.com/pdf/Paynter%20Declaration%20Ex.%20C%20-%20Part%201.pdf

        • Rebel

          Goodell wasn’t even commissioner when the deal was signed.

        • Rebel

          Okay, I finally found the footnotes so I will backtrack a bit as I realize what you’re saying here (doggone, that was hard to wade through) and it wasn’t to Goodell when he was commissioner. Footnote 78 really doesn’t tell anything considering nearly the whole thing is blacked out. Footnote 73 does say EA sought the exclusive deal, though a few years before it was signed. Though I kind of wonder where this came from. It’s always been reported, even among anti-EA outlets, the NFL asked for the exclusive deal for as long as it’s been signed. The only time I’ve ever heard it reported otherwise was from the EA bashers “on the street” so to speak.

          In any case, the NFL never had to agree to it. But they do tend to do exclusive deals. I don’t really like the practice, but I can’t fault EA for going after it if that’s what happened. The NFL does seem to like exclusive deals on things like this (think Nike, and before that Reebok, as the exclusive equipment supplier for the league). The NFL still deserves plenty of blame on this. I never really have understood why they’d want to limit their potential reach. Maybe that’s a discussion for another day.

          • Keith.

            The documents came from EA — they had to produce all these damning emails through discovery in the Madden Monopoly lawsuit, before they settled for $27 million.

  • The Great Leon

    I am sad to see the series go even with all the flaws. Guess I am done with EA because Madden has not been good for a long time. Live has not been made in awhile and my expectations are low for it.

  • Jason Lewon

    well it loks like cancelli th game was the only way to settle the suit

  • samutuck

    The players that actually got involved in the this are not really making any money. If you check on operation sports you will see that EA only settled with 40 million dollars between 125,000 players in the suit. If you do the math, that is $320 dollars for each player and you have to include their lawyer fees. These guys who had a part in ending this franchise are only going to pay of their books for the semester or have some money for groceries at the end of the day. LOL!!!!!!

  • J.T. campbell

    Kevin I’m saying the school gave EA permission to use their likeness why not sue the schools

    • Kevin C

      You’d have to ask them why they didn’t sue the school. Probably because the school pays them a scholarship. Whatever the reason the ONLY thing that matters is that they did NOT sue their schools and they DID sue EA Sports. And EA Sports did not pay these kids one dime . . . until now. ;)

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