Well, Electronic Arts is in a bit of legal trouble this week, and no, it has nothing to do with the striking similarities between Dante’s Inferno and God of War. It has to do with its mega successful NCAA game franchises. San Francisco Weekly reports that a former college quarterback by the name of Samuel Keller has sued EA for what he sees as an egregious and blatantly unlawful “use of National Collegiate Athletic Association (‘NCAA’) student likenesses in videogames produced by Electronic Arts…to increase sales and profits.”
The suit also accuses the NCAA and EA of conspiring and deliberately violating NCAA’s Bylaw 12.5, which, “specifically prohibits the commercial licensing of an NCAA athlete’s ‘name, picture or likeness.’” This conspiracy obviously then led to millions upon millions of dollars of revenue for EA and the NCAA.
Now, since EA’s college titles don’t include any actual player names out of the box (although actual college rosters can be uploaded via EA’s Sports Locker, so that’s still a problem), the suit’s mainly concerned with “likenesses” (height, weight, skin tone, biographical info, special equipment, etc.). Of course, the suit does make some provisions so as to not seem too unreasonable, the major one being that in order to be included in the overall class represented in the case, the virtual athlete must be within one inch of the real player’s height and within 10 percent of the real player’s weight. That’s nice of them, but I wonder how many players are included in that list (Feed fan project!).
It’s a pretty far reaching law suit, including all of EA’s NCAA-sponsored titles, and the plaintiff is seeking some serious compensation. Legal fee repayment (obviously), punitive, actual and statutory damages, disgorgement of all profits earned by EA from their NCAA games (ouch!) as well as the destruction of all copies of NCAA games (“to the extent permitted by law”) that have not been sold. Is that all? Sheesh.
The suit requests a jury trial, and I sincerely hopes that comes to pass, because this could be one of the most signficant gaming law suits ever, given the powers, money and consequences at stake. In the meantime, you can read the entire suit over at Court House News. It's a pretty compelling read, so I recommend checking it out.
So does the guy have a case?