EA Sports Has No Right To College Players, Judges Say

EA Sports Has No Right To College Players, Judges Say
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A US federal appeals court has revived a lawsuit brought by a college quarterback against EA Sports, on grounds the video game publisher used his likeness without permission in its popular NCAA Football series. Ryan Hart sued years ago on grounds that the Rutgers quarterback in NCAA Football exhibited all of his traits except for his name, and therefore constituted his actual likeness.

In 2011, Hart’s case was dismissed at the federal district court level, in a ruling that said his depiction in NCAA Football fell under EA Sports’ normal First Amendment rights of artistic expression.

Hart appealed, and decision Tuesday by a three-judge panel of the federal 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals agrees with him. “The digital Ryan Hart does what the actual Ryan Hart did while at Rutgers,” wrote Judge Joseph Greenaway, for the 2-1 majority. “He plays college football, in digital recreations of college football stadiums, filled with all the trappings of a college football game… [t]he various digitized sights and sounds in the video game do not alter or transform the appelant’s identity in a significant way.”

The reversal of the dismissal of Hart’s complaint means it goes back to district court. A similar complaint, filed by former Nebraska and Arizona State quarterback Samuel Keller, also is on appeal at the the federal level in another district. While this ruling is not binding, Keller’s complaint and appeal are basically the same as Hart’s.

Keller’s lawsuit was combined with that of Ed O’Bannon’s, the former UCLA standout who sued EA Sports over his appearance — after his college days — in a video game under all but his own name. O’Bannon’s suit seeks to become a class action and a ruling on that will take place in June. If it does become a class action — involving thousands of past and present college players — the potential damages could force the NCAA to severely alter its rules for eligibility, and even compensate athletes, as well as threaten the viability of licensed college sports video games.

Former Rutgers QB Ryan Hart gets favourable call on lawsuit against EA Sports [NJ.com]

Picture: Getty


  • I wonder if this has implications for Konami and PES with its unlicensed teams and players, given that it’s pretty obvious who they’re supposed to be.

  • Will this mean no more NCAA Football Games (since we don’t get this game in Australia anyway unless you import it in)….Although the NCAA signed with EA for a exclusive deal…the players can’t since they are college kids and deemed amatuers,receiving money would make them ineligiable.

    With Konami and PES…they have a FIFPro licence so they have player likeness…Teams wise they don’t have have the relevant FIFA or league liceneces (say thank you to EA) hence the funny team names. The only licence EA can’t get for the FIFA series is the J-League and Japanese National Team licence as they have an exclusive deal with Konami/PES

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