As GamePolitics has reported, former college athletes have filed a trio of lawsuits this year alleging that the NCAA and video game publisher Electronic Arts profited from the unlicensed use of their images in video games based on college football and basketball.
If successful, the suits have the potential to change the way the sports licensing game is played. What are the chances that will happen?
IGN has posted an interview with litigation support/public relations expert Jason Maloni, whose firm represents Roger Clemens, among others. Maloni comments on the implications of the lawsuits for the NCAA and EA:
Technology is a huge part of it. When I was growing up playing Space Invaders, you couldn't be one of the characters in the game. But with sports games, it's become such a huge phenomenon to assume the identity of your favorite athlete, and it only increases the bond people have with both the game and the team. That's why the pro and collegiate ranks love this type of branding...
I expect the impact for EA Sports will be minimal. The company is still going to produce games and derive a profit. The NCAA and large institutions stand to lose a small part of their current revenue... however, they are making [money] hand over fist. I don't think compensating these athletes in some way at the end of the day going to put a crimp in their budgets. College sports are a big business and it will remain a big business...
Like a lot of laws, it takes someone to stand up and say this isn't right. You might also be seeing a growing sympathy for former athletes. Not everyone goes on to the pros or gets mega contracts. I think student athletes are seeing what former pro athletes have done recently seeking restitution against the NFL for the use of their images.
By "pro athletes," Maloni is referring to the recent $26.25 million settlement that a group of retired NFL players reached with the former union over the unlicensed use of their images in EA's best-selling Madden franchise.