Things Looking Worse for Defendants in Huge NCAA Player Likeness Lawsuit

Posted September 19th, 2012 at 10:45 am

An update today regarding the ongoing player likeness lawsuit against the NCAA, CLC, and Electronic Arts comes from who note some damning emails that could prove troublesome when the trial begins in 2013. 

The emails discuss some developments over the years including the period of time where EA Sports and the NCAA had initially agreed to allow actual player names to be used in their college football and basketball series. That, of course, never came about but the discussion of such a deal is what matters here.

The lawsuit is the culmination of two high profile filings that were combined as led by Sam Keller and Ed O’Bannon. 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 has 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 last year established forms of media, producing expressive works of art, are not subject to judgments based on incorporating someone’s name or likeness.

This consolidated case in California looks as though it will be going much further 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 is set to begin on March 11, 2013.