EA has a First Amendment Right to Depict Real College Football Players, Judge Rules

Illustration for article titled EA has a First Amendment Right to Depict Real College Football Players, Judge Rules

Electronic Arts on Friday won the dismissal of one lawsuit against it regarding its use of identifying characteristics of real college football players in its NCAA Football series. A federal judge said EA's right to free expression under the First Amendment supersedes a former quarterback's right to control the use of his likeness.

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The dismissal was at the federal district court level; it's unknown if the player in question, former Rutgers quarterback Ryan Hart, intends to appeal or on what grounds he would do so. EA prevailed under a similar argument in 2009 against football hall-of-famer Jim Brown.

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Litigation concerning other players whose likenesses were used in EA Sports titles still is pending, though Friday's decision may affect that.

In NCAA Football current players are often identified by every characteristic other than their real name, including their ethnicity, height, weight, uniform number, equipment, playing position and how well they are rated at that position. Hart hard argued that depiction, even without the name, was enough to identify him.

But Judge Freda Wolfson, a federal judge in New Jersey, ruled that EA's right to produce works of creative expression protected by the First Amendment, which the Supreme Court recently found video games to be, trumped Hart's right to privacy and control of his likeness.

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EA Wins Dismissal In NCAA Player Likeness Suit [Gamasutra]


You can contact Owen Good, the author of this post, at owen@kotaku.com. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.

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DISCUSSION

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most of these players get to play football in exchange for a free college education. and after college, some of them go on to be drafted into the NFL where they will make hundreds of thousands of dollars and up to several million dollars. so it's a little hard for me to feel too bad for these young men. anyone with outstanding student debt ought to feel the same way, or at least be able to see things from another perspective. I see a lot of finger pointing at EA, but why the hell doesn't the NCAA have to reimburse players? they're the group who actually profits on behalf of the players.