Video Game Licensing a Key Issue as Former UCLA Star Leads New Lawsuit Against NCAA

July 22, 2009 -

The sports video game business is clearly in a period of legal upheaval as yet another class-action suit involving the licensing of athletes' images has emerged.

In the latest development, former UCLA power forward Ed O'Bannon is the lead plaintiff in a federal class action suit charging that the NCAA unlawfully deprived former student athletes of compensation for the use of their likenesses in, among other things, video games, DVDs, jerseys and stock video footage.

O'Bannon led UCLA to the 1995 NCAA Championship and played for three seasons in the NBA.

Michael Hausfield, whose firm, Hausfield LLP is representing O'Bannon and other members of the plaintiff class, offers this comment in a press release issued this morning:

No one has a right to own or control another person’s image or likeness for eternity without providing fair compensation. Former student athletes should have a voice in how their own images or likenesses – once they are no longer students – are used throughout their lifetime.

In his Sports Law column for Sports Illustrated/CNN, Vermont Law School professor Michael McCann terms the stakes in the case "enormous." McCann's full column is worth a read. Here's a taste:

There are two core areas of law implicated by O'Bannon v. NCAA.

First, by requiring student-athletes to forgo their identity rights in perpetuity, the NCAA has allegedly restrained trade in violation of the Sherman Act... Student-athletes, but for their authorization of the NCAA to license their images and likenesses, would be able to negotiate their own licensing deals after leaving college...  For example, if former student-athletes could negotiate their own licensing deals, multiple video game publishers could publish games featuring ex-players. More games could enhance technological innovation and lower prices for video game consumers.

Second... the [former players argue that] NCAA has deprived them of their "right of publicity." The right of publicity refers to the property interest of a person's name or likeness, i.e. one's image, voice or even signature...

It's important to note that the O'Bannon lawsuit is directed at the NCAA, not video game publishers. In addition, it deals only with licensing issues relating to former, not current NCAA athletes. On that score, however, O'Bannon requests that a trust be established with any funds won in the case; such proceeds would benefit today's players when they are finished with their collegiate careers.

In addition to the O'Bannon case, a pair of recent class-action suits by former college football players Sam Keller and Ryan Hart target the NCAA and Electronic Arts over similar licensing issues. And, as GamePolitics reported last month, retired NFL players won a $26.5 settlement with the National Football League Players Association over their unlicensed use in EA's popular Madden series. EA was not a defendant in that case, but some militant voices among the retired players advocate pursuing the Madden publisher at some future point.

Turbulent times, indeed...


Comments

Re: Video Game Licensing a Key Issue as Former UCLA Star ...

EA's starting to pay for their monopolizing sports games.  Thems chickens coming home to roost!

 

"You know what I wish? I wish all the scum of the Earth had one throat and I had my hands about it."

"You know what I wish? I wish all the scum of the Earth had one throat and I had my hands about it."

Re: Video Game Licensing a Key Issue as Former UCLA Star ...

repost of my comment from one of the other ball game articles.

 

[quote]

This seems so simple to fix, you join with a league they are allowed to use your likeness in anything they wish , at the same time so can players as long as its not against a few rules(doing stuff that harms the NCAA reputation,ect) where a percentage(10%) of the endorsement,ect goes to the league, Whatever the current licensing fee is you double it and half of it is goes to the players who are involved in the project, just split it down to equal proportions.


 If you are a student whatever is used the profit you earn from it goes into a non interest acrewing account and will be made available the moment they either leave collage,get hurt or join the league.

This way every one gets a piece of the pie and it makes it easier to use players people like and are willing to spend 60$ a year every year on.....

[/quote]

 


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Re: Video Game Licensing a Key Issue as Former UCLA Star ...

This might not be the best lawsuit. I would imagine that these kids sign over the rights to use their likeness to the NCAA when they sign up to play. Now that license might only apply to the images of the student DURING college meaning the NCAA only has rights to images taken while that student was a student-athlete. But still, there's almost certainly some kind of clause  in the contract.

Re: Video Game Licensing a Key Issue as Former UCLA Star ...

It seems, as Professor McCann points out, that the right to use the student-player's likeness exists in perpetuity (i.e., for ever and ever and ever, Amen). And, as McCann also points out, regardless of what the student-players may have signed off on, holding these rights in perpetuity may in and of themselves be an illegal restraint of trade under the Sherman Act. Just because you may have a contract saying you can do something doesn't mean that you are legally allowed to do that thing. Not if there's some law which says you can't do that thing.

 
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MattsworknameWilson: how? Im still waiting for my upgrade notice07/29/2015 - 3:44am
Matthew WilsonI updated to a clean instill of windows 10.07/29/2015 - 2:36am
Mattsworknameargue that it's wrong, but then please admit it's wrong on ALL Fronts07/29/2015 - 2:06am
MattsworknameTechnoGeek: It's actually NOT, but it is a method used all across the specturm. See Rush limbaugh, MSNBC, Shawn hannity, etc etc, how many compagns have been brought up to try and shut them down by going after there advertisers. It's fine if you wanna07/29/2015 - 2:05am
Mattsworknamediscussed, while not what I liked and not the methods I wanted to see used, were , in a sense, the effort of thsoe game consuming masses to hold what they felt was supposed to be there press accountable for what many of them felt was Betrayal07/29/2015 - 2:03am
MattsworknameAs we say, the gamers are dead article set of a firestorm among the game consuming populace, who, ideally, were the intended audiance for sites like Kotaku, Polygon, Et all. As such, the turn about on them and the attacking of them, via the metods07/29/2015 - 2:03am
MattsworknameAndrew: Thats kind fo the issue at hand, Accountable is a matter of context. For a media group, it means accountable to its reader. to a goverment, to it's voters and tax payer, to a company, to it's share holders.07/29/2015 - 2:02am
Andrew EisenAnd again, you keep saying "accountable." What exactly does that mean? How is Gamasutra not accounting for the editorial it published?07/28/2015 - 11:47pm
Andrew EisenMatt - I disagree with your 9:12 and 9:16 comment. There are myriad ways to address content you don't like. And they're far easier to execute in the online space.07/28/2015 - 11:47pm
Andrew EisenMatt - Banning in the legal sense? Not that I'm aware but there have certainly been groups of gamers who have worked towards getting content they don't like removed.07/28/2015 - 11:45pm
DanJAlexander's editorial was and continues to be grossly misrepresented by her opponents. And if you don't like a site, you stop reading it - same as not watching a tv show. They get your first click, but not your second.07/28/2015 - 11:40pm
TechnogeekYes, because actively trying to convince advertisers to influence the editorial content of media is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, especially for a movement that's ostensibly about journalistic ethics.07/28/2015 - 11:02pm
Mattsworknameanother07/28/2015 - 9:16pm
Mattsworknameyou HAVE TO click on it. So they get the click revenue weather you like what it says or not. as such, the targeting of advertisers most likely seemed like a good course of action to those who wanted to hold those media groups accountable for one reason07/28/2015 - 9:16pm
MattsworknameBut, when you look at online media, it's completely different, with far more options, but far few ways to address issues that the consumers may have. In tv, you don't like what they show, you don't watch. But in order to see if you like something online07/28/2015 - 9:12pm
MattsworknameIn tv, and radio, ratings are how it works. your ratings determine how well you do and how much money you an charge.07/28/2015 - 9:02pm
Mattsworknameexpect to do so without someone wanting to hold you to task for it07/28/2015 - 9:00pm
MattsworknameMecha: I don't think anyone was asking for Editoral changes, what they wanted was to show those media groups that if they were gonna bash there own audiance, the audiance was not gonna take it sitting down. you can write what you want, but you can't07/28/2015 - 8:56pm
MattsworknameAndrew, Im asking as a practical question, Have gamers, as a group, ever asked for a game, or other item, to be banned. Im trying to see if theres any cases anyone else remembers cause I cant find or remember any.07/28/2015 - 8:55pm
Andrew EisenAs mentioned, Gamasutra isn't a gaming site, it's a game industry site. I don't feel it's changed its focus at all. Also, I don't get the sense that the majority of the people who took issue with that one opinion piece were regular readers anyway.07/28/2015 - 8:43pm
 

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