EA Has A First Amendment Right To Depict Real College Football Players, Judge Rules

Electronic Arts on Friday won the dismissal of one lawsuit against it regarding its use of identifying characteristics of real college football players in its NCAA Football series. A federal judge said EA's right to free expression under the First Amendment supersedes a former quarterback's right to control the use of his likeness.

The dismissal was at the federal district court level; it's unknown if the player in question, former Rutgers quarterback Ryan Hart, intends to appeal or on what grounds he would do so. EA prevailed under a similar argument in 2009 against football hall-of-famer Jim Brown.

Litigation concerning other players whose likenesses were used in EA Sports titles still is pending, though Friday's decision may affect that.

In NCAA Football current players are often identified by every characteristic other than their real name, including their ethnicity, height, weight, uniform number, equipment, playing position and how well they are rated at that position. Hart hard argued that depiction, even without the name, was enough to identify him.

But Judge Freda Wolfson, a federal judge in New Jersey, ruled that EA's right to produce works of creative expression protected by the First Amendment, which the Supreme Court recently found video games to be, trumped Hart's right to privacy and control of his likeness.

EA Wins Dismissal In NCAA Player Likeness Suit [Gamasutra]


Comments

    This is a stupid ruling. How can a company that intends to use someones likeness to make a profit claim that they should be allowed to use it on the grounds of freedom of expression?

      EA had the NCAA licence, which includes likenesses of the players etc. Just like the TV networks don't have to sign contracts with all the individual players in order to show them as part of their TV broadcasts.

        But they're not relying on a contract, they're citing the First Amendment...

    I think they do need to pay pro athletes for video games. It's why Jordan and Barkly weren't in NBA games as they weren't part of the players association. Instead they needed to be negotiated with separately. Curiously Jordans personal identifying traits were always altered, he was listed as 6'4 and always had hair. His stats were accurate though. Perhaps EA were more worried about being sued by an athlete with money than amateurs?

      First Amendmant for sale, only slightly used; serious offers only!

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