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Right of publicity tackled in lawsuit against EA for video game

If you have ever played a sports game produced by Electronic Arts then you know that these games usually include the likenesses and actual pictures of athletes from across a wide range of sports. When it comes to professional athletics, most people -- as well as the law -- are in agreement that a video game producer needs to get the consent from players before using their likeness. But when it comes to college athletics, some would argue that the law has been a little less than clear.

Until now, that is. As some of our Los Angeles readers may know, EA and the NCAA recently faced two class action lawsuits that tackled the issue above. They begged the question: should college athletes receive compensation when their likenesses are used by video game producers? It's a question that has been touched on by several cases in the past and may have been answered by the preliminary approval of a $60 million settlement between plaintiffs and the NCAA.

The settlement could affect some 100,000 NCAA Division I athletes whose likenesses have been used in video games produced between May 4, 2003 to Sept. 3, 2014. Although EA stopped producing video games containing the likenesses of college athletes since the onset of civil litigation, continued production of such games will be contingent upon whether the right of publicity should apply to college students or not.

The right of publicity, under both California Civil Code § 3344 and common law, states that a person's name, likeness, voice, signature or photograph cannot be used for commercial purposes without the person's consent. With the approval of the most recent settlement, along with the $40 million settlement with EA that was reached in June, it's possible that this part of entertainment law could be applied to college athletes as it already is for professional athletes.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Student-Athlete Settlements Approved," Mario Dinzeo, Sept. 4, 2014

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