A class of former college starts is suing the NCAA and EA Sports for allegedly using the players’ likenesses in video games without permission, and for duping the players into signing away merchandizing rights.
A 2009 class action suit brought forth by former player Edward O’Bannon claimed that the National Collegiate Athletic Association forced student athletes to sign “Form 08-3a,” which signed over their rights to monetary credit for using their image in merchandizing, including video games. This violates federal antitrust laws.
Cases brought forth against the NCAA and EA Sports are combined into one class action lawsuit, which allows all plaintiffs in the class – for example, student athletes from 2005 to 2011 whose likenesses appear in video games without permission – to join without the expense of filing a single lawsuit.
Michael Lehmann, with Hausfeld LLP of San Francisco, is representing the athletes. He wrote that the athletes have proved that their claims meet the criteria for certification. Lehmann cited a dissenting opinion in a 7th Circuit case involving NCAA contracts as evidence that college sports “have become big businesses.”
The dissent, from Judge Joel Flaum in 1993, states: “Despite the nonprofit status of NCAA member schools, the transactions those schools make with premier athletes – full scholarships in exchange for athletic services – are not noncommercial, since schools can make millions of dollars as a result of these transactions. Indeed, this is likely one reason that some schools are willing to pay their football coaches up to $5 million a year rather than invest that money into educational resources.”
According to the NCAA, however, the names and likenesses of the players have been altered. While some of the players might be recognizable, the video game image is not exact. In addition, the NCAA argues that the money they make from selling these resemblances to companies like EA Sports allows them to fund programs for their athletes, such as full college scholarships and help moving into professional sports.
Class action lawsuits allow plaintiffs or defendants to band together for better representation. However, laws around formation of class action suits can be complicated. The attorneys at Strom Law, LLC can help. We offer free consultations to discuss the facts of your case, whether you are forming a class action suit, or joining one. Contact us today. 803.252.4800.