Electronic Arts has entered into a settlement agreement related to several cases involving the use of college player likenesses in many of its NCAA-branded sports titles. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed and still require the approval of the courts. The settlement is related to several pending cases filed by former and current NCAA college sports players including the Keller and O’Bannon case against EA, along with the Alston and Hart cases.
"I can say that we are extraordinarily pleased with this settlement, whose terms we will be proud to present to the court and to the public," said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and lead attorney in the Keller litigation. "When we began this case in 2009, we were venturing into a new application of the law, with little precedent, while facing monumental legal hurdles."
The settlement came about in the aftermath of the United States Court of Appeals ruling in favor of the proposed class in an attempt by EA to dismiss the case. The ruling remanded the case to U.S. District Court, allowing attorneys for the plaintiffs to seek class certification.
"When we filed the case, we felt very strongly that EA’s appropriation of student-athletes’ images for a for-profit venture was wrong, both in a legal sense and from a more fundamental moral perspective," Berman continued. "These guys were busting their butts on the field or the court trying to excel at athletics, oftentimes to help win or maintain scholarships so they could get an education."
"Students agreed that by being student-athletes that they could not exploit their personal commercial value, an agreement they lived up to," Berman added. "The same cannot be said about the NCAA or its partner Electronic Arts."
Berman also said that the settlement with EA will allow attorneys to focus on claims against the NCAA, who has decided not to settle.
"We hold that the NCAA intentionally looked the other way while EA commercialized the likenesses of students, and it did so because it knew that EA’s financial success meant a bigger royalty check to the NCAA," he said. "We are looking forward to presenting our case against the NCAA to a jury at trial. We believe the facts will reveal a startling degree of complicity and profiteering on the backs of student athletes."
The settlement still requires the approval of Judge Claudia Wilken in the US District Court for Northern California.
More information about these cases can be found here.