A federal judge has refused Electronic Arts' request to dismiss a class action lawsuit brought against it by former NCAA student athletes, who allege the publisher conspired to uses their likenesses without compensation.
EA will now have to defend its case in court -- some have speculated
that if the company loses that case, it could pay damages of as much as $1 billion to former NCAA athletes, though the publisher has downplayed that estimate.
Filed in 2009, the lawsuit claims EA colluded with the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Collegiate Licensing Company to have players sign away their rights to have their images, likenesses, and names used in video games such as the NCAA Football
The athletes allege that, in order to play NCAA sports, they were forced to sign a form allowing EA to use their likenesses in its games while they played college sports and even long after their NCAA careers ended.
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken previously threw out other claims in the class action lawsuit, but when EA moved to have this antitrust complaint dismissed, she denied the publisher's request, according to documents posted by
Courthouse News Service.
EA is embroiled in a number of other similar lawsuits over using the likenesses of retired NFL players
and a former NBA player
in its sports video games without consent or compensation.
The company has attempted to have those cases thrown out by arguing that it could use their likenesses due to First Amendment protections for expressive works, but in the case of the NFL retiree lawsuit, the court shot down that argument.