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Court Rules That EA Is Not Protected Under First Amendment In Likeness Suit

by Mike Futter on Jul 31, 2013 at 10:49 AM

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Yesterday we reported that EA had filed a request for dismissal from the suit brought against it and the NCAA over unauthorized use of athlete likenesses in licensed video games. Today brings another piece of that case coming to a close.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has determined that EA's appeal of a US District Court ruling will not stand. EA had claimed that use of player likenesses was protected under the first amendment.

EA's NCAA games display height, age, and weight, among other details. User created rosters that fill in the names to accompany the likenesses can be shared over EA's internal system completing the picture.

The case has been remanded back to trial to proceed. The next phase begins on September 5, 2013. The NCAA recently decided not to renew its licensing agreement with EA and will be stepping away from video games.


Our Take
The first amendment defense is laughable. Actors, musicians, and other celebrities license their likenesses for use. There is no reason to believe that student athletes would be treated any differently. Put simply, you cannot use likenesses of people (regardless of their celebrity), especially in a commercial product, without their permission.