A class action lawsuit filed against EA Tuesday alleges that National Collegiate Athletic Association allowed the company to use unpaid college athletes likenesses in Madden games unlawfully.
A similar lawsuit went down not long ago where retired NFL players had their likenesses unlawfully used in Madden NFL games. The plaintiffs in that case won their suit to the tune of $28.1 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
The plaintiff in this case is Samuel Keller, a former quarterback at Arizona State and Nebraska. Keller claims in his 24 page complaint that the NCAA let EA use college athletes' likenesses as part of some agreement between EA and the NCAA that "intentionally circumvents the prohibitions on utilizing student athletes' names in commercial ventures by allowing gamers to upload entire rosters, which include players' names and other information, directly into the game in a matter of seconds."
His proof: EA's game, NCAA 2009, features several randomly generated characters such as Arizona State's "Quarterback No. 9" and Nebraska's "Quarterback No. 5" which bear a strong resemblance to Keller. Ergo, they're not randomly generated and somebody owes Keller money.
The suit goes on to state that the NCAA's own bylaw 12.5 prohibits the commercialization of a student athlete's "name, picture, or likeness." The athletes themselves must even sign an affidavit confirming they "read and understand" this rule regarding the maintaining of their amateur status.
So it rankled Keller to note that "with rare exception, virtually every real-life Division I football or basketball player in the NCAA has a corresponding player in Electronic Arts' games with the same jersey number, and virtually identical height, weight, build and home state. In addition Electronic Arts often matches the player's, skin tone, hair color, and often even a player's hair style."
"The motivation of the Defendants is simple: more money," the complaint says. It closes by demanding a jury trial, actual, statutory and punitive damages as well as disgorgement of all profits EA earned from the games featuring NCAA players. Plus it wants all copies of the games seized and destroyed.
Man, EA is not having much luck with legal matters lately.