Video Game Licensing a Key Issue as Former UCLA Star Leads New Lawsuit Against NCAA

July 22, 2009 -

The sports video game business is clearly in a period of legal upheaval as yet another class-action suit involving the licensing of athletes' images has emerged.

In the latest development, former UCLA power forward Ed O'Bannon is the lead plaintiff in a federal class action suit charging that the NCAA unlawfully deprived former student athletes of compensation for the use of their likenesses in, among other things, video games, DVDs, jerseys and stock video footage.

O'Bannon led UCLA to the 1995 NCAA Championship and played for three seasons in the NBA.

Michael Hausfield, whose firm, Hausfield LLP is representing O'Bannon and other members of the plaintiff class, offers this comment in a press release issued this morning:

No one has a right to own or control another person’s image or likeness for eternity without providing fair compensation. Former student athletes should have a voice in how their own images or likenesses – once they are no longer students – are used throughout their lifetime.

In his Sports Law column for Sports Illustrated/CNN, Vermont Law School professor Michael McCann terms the stakes in the case "enormous." McCann's full column is worth a read. Here's a taste:

There are two core areas of law implicated by O'Bannon v. NCAA.

First, by requiring student-athletes to forgo their identity rights in perpetuity, the NCAA has allegedly restrained trade in violation of the Sherman Act... Student-athletes, but for their authorization of the NCAA to license their images and likenesses, would be able to negotiate their own licensing deals after leaving college...  For example, if former student-athletes could negotiate their own licensing deals, multiple video game publishers could publish games featuring ex-players. More games could enhance technological innovation and lower prices for video game consumers.

Second... the [former players argue that] NCAA has deprived them of their "right of publicity." The right of publicity refers to the property interest of a person's name or likeness, i.e. one's image, voice or even signature...

It's important to note that the O'Bannon lawsuit is directed at the NCAA, not video game publishers. In addition, it deals only with licensing issues relating to former, not current NCAA athletes. On that score, however, O'Bannon requests that a trust be established with any funds won in the case; such proceeds would benefit today's players when they are finished with their collegiate careers.

In addition to the O'Bannon case, a pair of recent class-action suits by former college football players Sam Keller and Ryan Hart target the NCAA and Electronic Arts over similar licensing issues. And, as GamePolitics reported last month, retired NFL players won a $26.5 settlement with the National Football League Players Association over their unlicensed use in EA's popular Madden series. EA was not a defendant in that case, but some militant voices among the retired players advocate pursuing the Madden publisher at some future point.

Turbulent times, indeed...


Comments

Re: Video Game Licensing a Key Issue as Former UCLA Star ...

EA's starting to pay for their monopolizing sports games.  Thems chickens coming home to roost!

 

"You know what I wish? I wish all the scum of the Earth had one throat and I had my hands about it."

"You know what I wish? I wish all the scum of the Earth had one throat and I had my hands about it."

Re: Video Game Licensing a Key Issue as Former UCLA Star ...

repost of my comment from one of the other ball game articles.

 

[quote]

This seems so simple to fix, you join with a league they are allowed to use your likeness in anything they wish , at the same time so can players as long as its not against a few rules(doing stuff that harms the NCAA reputation,ect) where a percentage(10%) of the endorsement,ect goes to the league, Whatever the current licensing fee is you double it and half of it is goes to the players who are involved in the project, just split it down to equal proportions.


 If you are a student whatever is used the profit you earn from it goes into a non interest acrewing account and will be made available the moment they either leave collage,get hurt or join the league.

This way every one gets a piece of the pie and it makes it easier to use players people like and are willing to spend 60$ a year every year on.....

[/quote]

 


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Re: Video Game Licensing a Key Issue as Former UCLA Star ...

This might not be the best lawsuit. I would imagine that these kids sign over the rights to use their likeness to the NCAA when they sign up to play. Now that license might only apply to the images of the student DURING college meaning the NCAA only has rights to images taken while that student was a student-athlete. But still, there's almost certainly some kind of clause  in the contract.

Re: Video Game Licensing a Key Issue as Former UCLA Star ...

It seems, as Professor McCann points out, that the right to use the student-player's likeness exists in perpetuity (i.e., for ever and ever and ever, Amen). And, as McCann also points out, regardless of what the student-players may have signed off on, holding these rights in perpetuity may in and of themselves be an illegal restraint of trade under the Sherman Act. Just because you may have a contract saying you can do something doesn't mean that you are legally allowed to do that thing. Not if there's some law which says you can't do that thing.

 
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Matthew WilsonI know most of my friends first saw robotech when it was on Toonami in the mid 90s, but it is possible that a fan who watched it in the 80s are in a position to do it.03/27/2015 - 1:04pm
Andrew EisenRobotech was mid 80s. Fans of the show (who were kids when it aired) are my age and older.03/27/2015 - 1:01pm
Matthew Wilsontiming. anime only really became widely known in the US in the mid 90s. if we assume it was mostly kids watching it, they still wouldnt be high enough in managment to be given full creative control yet. it would still be another 5 to 10 years for that.03/27/2015 - 12:59pm
Andrew EisenI agree. Now what makes you think that there is no one in power who cares about (or has the ability to) make a good adaptation?03/27/2015 - 12:47pm
Matthew Wilsonits not about pratice, it is about people who understand it getting in to positions of power.03/27/2015 - 12:34pm
Matthew Wilsonallot of the comic book characters that have been turned in to good movies started in the 70s or earlier.03/27/2015 - 12:32pm
Andrew EisenWell, if it really does take two generations of practice to get it right, we'll never get good live action adaptations of anime if no one starts making them.03/27/2015 - 12:31pm
Andrew EisenWhat have you seen that would make you say that?03/27/2015 - 12:30pm
Matthew WilsonIt took 2 genarations of comic book reader before we got good comic book movies. I imagine that will be the case for anime as well.03/27/2015 - 12:28pm
Matthew Wilson@AE yes if they have people that understand the content give it a shot, but as far as I can tell that does not look like it is happening in this case.03/27/2015 - 12:26pm
Andrew EisenI understand the skepticism but I don't think "this will never work" and "no one should even bother" are very healthy attitudes.03/27/2015 - 12:11pm
Andrew EisenWhy would you doubt that? A lot of writers are my age and older, the perfect age to be fans of the content. All I'm saying is it's not impossible to get a good Robotech movie. In fact, it's more likely today than any other time.03/27/2015 - 12:11pm
Matthew Wilson@AE the difference is in the case of marvel the writers and directors clearly understand the source content. I doubt many of any of them are that way with robotech, or any anime for that matter.03/27/2015 - 11:10am
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.playstationtrophies.org/news/news-15838-Sony-Cuts-the-Price-of-PlayStation-TV-Today.html Sony cuts the price of the Vita TV in the UK, still wont force developers to make their stuff compatible with it.03/27/2015 - 10:49am
Andrew EisenMechaCrash - It's true, there are a lot of examples of crap adaptations. But there are increasing numbers of great adaptations such as the Marvel movies. That said, it's certainly going to be an uphill battle at Sony, especially with Tom Rothman around.03/27/2015 - 10:45am
ZippyDSMleeOh live action crap...I dunno with hollywood being stuck in the 90s grimdarkblack mode I can not see how anything would work well other than SNK or Akira.. then again Akira is a bit of head trip...03/27/2015 - 10:11am
MechaCrashI meant Hollywood in general. If they did a Robotech movie, it'd just be a slightly tweaked Macross, because usually when people talk about Robotech, they just mean the first third. Nobody cares about the Masters/Southern Cross or Invid/MOSPAEDA stuff.03/27/2015 - 9:36am
ZippyDSMleeYes Macross is good..... robotech....not so much..... Now Pizza Cats that's the definitive TV dub, if not best dub ever I'd put it up there with COwboy Bebop just becuse the Pizza Cats dub is fun as heck and crazy,Medabots and Fighting Foodons are decent.03/27/2015 - 9:20am
InfophileAged well plot-wise, I mean. The animation is showing its age, but if you don't mind that, the plot holds up quite well03/27/2015 - 6:52am
InfophileRobotech may be 30 years old, but it's actually aged pretty well. Plus, one of the three Japanese franchises that went into making it, Macross, is coming out with a new series soon. So it's far from forgotten or out-of-date03/27/2015 - 6:50am
 

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