As GamePolitics reported last June, a class-action suit filed against Electronic Arts alleges that game consumers were penalized by EA's exclusive licensing deal with the NFL and NFLPA.
Pecover vs. Electronic Arts claims that the EA-NFL-NFLPA deal essentially created a Madden Monopoly, killed off Take Two's excellent NFL2K series, and significantly jacked up prices for consumers of pro football games. Here at GamePolitics we've been saying the same thing for years.
As it now stands, the case is scheduled for trial on September 14th in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. In the meantime, GamePolitics has obtained the just-released transcript of arguments made by lawyers in the case before Judge Vaughn Walker on November 4th of last year.
While the middle section of the 48-page transcript bogs down into legalese that will appeal only to attorneys, the transcript is otherwise full of lively and informative banter. Notably, Judge Vaughn seems receptive to the plaintiff's argument - or, at least not dismissive of the consumer view.
In the transcript excerpts below the players are Judge Vaughn Walker (left), attorney Stuart Paynter for plaintiff Jeffrey Pecover, and attorney Daniel Wall for EA.
THE COURT: All right. Now, tell me, Mr. Paynter, do I understand the complaint to allege that each of these license agreements with NFL, NCAA Football and Arena Football are all exclusive license agreements?
MR. PAYNTER: That is correct, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Now, when Take-Two Interactive, the Sego [sic] company, first marketed its branded football video game, I assume it had a license?
MR. PAYNTER: Yes, Your Honor. I hope so. Yes. From the NFL, yes... [from the] the Players Union.
THE COURT: And similarly, it's your allegation that Electronic Arts had a license with the NFL... But neither of these licenses, prior to 2000 -- is it 2004? ... were exclusive licenses? ...Then, in 2004, the beginning of 2004, Electronic Arts entered into exclusive licenses with NFL, NCAA and Arena Football? Is that it?
MR. PAYNTER: Your Honor, it was actually, I believe, toward the end of 2004 that they entered into new licenses. It was during 2004 that they were forced to lower their prices as the result of the release of the 2K5 game.
THE COURT: Let's just talk about the licensing first. My guess is it was December of 2004, was it, when the first of these exclusive licenses was entered into? ...And that was with NFL, correct?
MR. PAYNTER: That was, I believe, simultaneously with the NFL and the NFL Players' Union...
THE COURT: All right. I don't follow these things too closely. Now, are there any other branded football games?
MR. PAYNTER: Your Honor, I believe... that the Take-Two does have a game that utilizes some former players. I believe that that is the case, Your Honor. I do not believe they are or could be any football, interactive football software utilizing NFL, Intellectual Property or Players Union Intellectual Property [other than EA].
THE COURT: These are individual football players?
MR. PAYNTER: I believe, Your Honor. And again, Your Honor, I don't know this for a fact, but I believe that's the case, that these are... they have a game (GP: Take Two's regrettable All Pro Footbal 2K8). You know, I think we would -- we don't believe it's commercially successful or viable or a competitor, but I think they do offer a game that uses ex-players. You know, players who aren't part of the Players' Union agreement. And I believe, although I'm not positive, that that is sort of a diminishing pool of
25 players, I think.
THE COURT: You could probably find some of them up with Judge Allsup... at the moment...
GP: This is a bit of judicial humor on the part of Judge Walker. At the time of this hearing, the trial in which NFL retirees alleged that their former union, the NFLPA, had screwed them out of Madden royalties was going on in another courtroom.
Hit the jump for the rest of the excerpted transcript.