Over the past few months, the NCAA and EA have been slapped with a federal class action lawsuit and two individual lawsuits regarding the unlawful "use of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) student likenesses in videogames produced by Electronic Arts to increase sales and profits."
The primary game series in question is EA's NCAA Football, and with EA's NCAA Football 10 being released this week, its hardly surprising that CNBC's sports business reporter Darren Rovell has decided to chime in on the lawsuits. Rovell says the player likenesses found in the game are so uncanny that he believes EA and the NCAA will ultimately lose the lawsuit, and will be forced to not only compensate players whose likenesses have appeared in previous games, but also those that appear in this year's title.
Of course, the NCAA strictly prohibits college athletes from profiting off of their images and being compensated financially, beyond their scholarships and such, and yet, should the plaintiffs prevail, current college athletes (along with several former players) would be entitled to a certain percentage of the secured damages. So let me see if I have this straight: the current college athletes would be compensated for not having been compensated for the use of their likenesses, even though they aren't allowed to be compensated in the first place, because it's prohibited by the NCAA? Makes sense to me.
Now, EA continues to maintain that the lawsuits are baseless, yet it wouldn't be surprising at all if EA settled these suits out of court. Because if these cases end up in front of juries, anything could happen, and that could have some very serious consequences for EA and one of its most lucrative and beloved franchises, not to mention a potential overhauling of the NCAA's entire player compensation infrastructure. Like I said before, this is shaping up to be one of the most fascinating video game lawsuit stories to come along in a while. So definitely stay tuned.
Should college players whose likenesses appear in EA NCAA sports games be compensated? If so, should every player be entitled to the same amount? How would you determine such a thing, and wouldn't that just cause more problems?