One NCAA Player Likeness Lawsuit Ends in EA’s Favor

Posted September 12th, 2011 at 11:30 am

While the well-publicized lawsuit against EA Sports, the NCAA, and the Collegiate Licensing Company steams towards a trial set to begin in March 2013 (see the details on that here) a ruling has come down that offers insight into the legalities and could even have a greater impact.

EA has won a dismissal in a case brought originally in 2009 by former Rutgers QB Ryan Hart in New Jersey, reinforcing the idea that video games are artistic works rather than commercial speech – and therefore protected under the First Amendment. That would mean creating characters even if based on real life skills and appearance would be permitted seemingly as long as names weren’t used. 

While it may not directly influence the pending Sam Keller/Ed O’Bannon led suit in California it goes to show the momentum being built regarding the interpretation of the law considering video games to be expressive works of art. That was established recently by the Supreme Court and supports EA’s argument – as other forms of media such as movies have never been subject to judgments based on incorporating someone’s name or likeness (which happens all the time).

Given that the judge in that case had already dismissed EA as a defendant only to bring them back in when the plaintiffs made additional allegations, and now adding in this latest ruling, the company appears to be confident in their standing. There is a long way to though and with the potential ramifications it is something that will be continually monitored.