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Likeness Lawsuit Against EA Sports Thrown Out

EA Sports is mired in multiple lawsuits (including one involving 6,000 former NFL players) regarding the publisher's use of their likenesses in its Madden and NCAA football franchises, but the load got lighter by one today as a judge threw out a lawsuit from former Rutgers QB Ryan Hart.

U.S. district judge Freda Wolfson in New Jersey ruled that EA's right of free expression under the First Amendment outweighs Hart's abilities to control his likeness and its usage. Furthermore, Judge Wolfson says that the ability in NCAA Football to customize Hart's name, abilities, physical attributes, etc. weakens his argument. "The image serves as an art-imitating-life starting point for the game playing experience," she wrote.

Hart is appealing the decision, and his lawyer, Tim McIlwain, told Reuters, "Millions of dollars are being made, and he’s not getting his part of that pot. How is this allowed to happen?"

Earlier this year, a different judge dismissed former Arizona State/Nebraska QB Sam Keller's lawsuit (also related to the use of his likeness) against EA Sports, but despite these legal victories for EA in particular, the issue of collegiate athlete representation and the lack of compensation from the NCAA and its licensing company continues.

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