The long-running attempts by former college football players to earn a share of EA's revenues from the NCAA series won't just affect video games and "amateur" athletics. It could hit music, TV, movies and comic books, too.
The legal battle, which was originally between former NCAA players and the games publisher, has grown over the years to now include everyone from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund to Bob Marley's estate to major Hollywood motion picture studios, all concerned with the case's potential to limit the creative use of a celebrity in a work of art.
EA's lawyers state that, were courts to find that the publisher owed the players money for simply insinuating that they were present in the game (players are not named, though all stats and characteristics are based on those of the player in question), it would "severely stifle artistic expression".
"Documentarians, biographers, filmmakers, novelists, photographers, songwriters, and many others do exactly what the district court said is not protected: they create expressive works that realistically depict individuals and/or refer to them by their actual names", they told the court.
They specifically give the example of the movie Forrust Gump, saying that the film's use of actual persons and celebrities wouldn't have been possible if "artists" were not allowed to use real people in their work.
The athlete's lawyers, meanwhile, say that NCAA Football is not "art" at all, and is a simulation that is entirely based in — and profiting off unlicensed players existing in — reality.
Both sides have a point, and good ones at that. Which is why this has gone to court!