The fallout continues from last month's $28 million federal court verdict which ruled that the NFL players union scewed retired players out of licensing revenue from the best-selling Madden NFL game.
It's a bit complicated, but the short version is that the union (NFLPA) gave retired players the option to sign onto a group licensing authorization (GLA) by which Electronic Arts was entitled to use their image for Madden's classic teams. The retirees, however, alleged that they never received any payments based on Madden. The money went to active players, instead.
Yesterday, former Oakland Raider Dave Pear, a veteran of the silver-and-black's 1980 Super Bowl-winning squad, maintained that the NFLPA continually overinflated the number of players who actually signed the GLAs. At its worst, according to Pear, the NFLPA 's 2007 annual report claims that more than 2,900 retirees authorized their image to be used while court records obtained from last month's trial show that only 22 retired players actually signed a GLA that year. Pear writes:
Does this mean that any players who hadn’t signed a GLA or been included in the list can now sue Electronic Arts directly for copyright infringement if their images were used in their Madden video games without their permission? And does it also mean that the retired players who were excluded from signing GLA’s have been misrepresented by their union, the NFLPA?
While EA is not a defendant in the case, which is under appeal, Madden revenues were by far the largest economic point of contention. If EA has a potential problem going forward, it could be with retired players who never signed the GLA yet were portrayed in Madden. As GamePolitics has reported, the NFLPA conspired with EA to "scramble" the images of retired players. A critical piece of evidence in the recent federal court trial was an e-mail message from former NFLPA exec LaShun Lawson to Madden producer Jeremy Strauser:
For all retired players that are not listed... their identity must be altered so that it cannot be recognized [by Madden players]... Hence, any and all players not listed... cannot be represented in Madden 2002 with the number that player actually wore, and must be scrambled.