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EA's NCAA case leads to landmark decision on player likenesses
EA's NCAA case leads to landmark decision on player likenesses
August 8, 2014 | By Christian Nutt

EA has been embroiled -- along with the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) and the Collegiate Licensing Corporation which controls its licensing rights -- in lawsuits brought by former student athletes who appeared in its popular college sports games.

Now, federal judge Claudia Wilken has ruled that the athletic organization is violating antitrust law by not allowing student athletes to be paid for the use of their likenesses and identities.

This is a huge decision for college athletics, though for its part, EA has already settled this case, which was originally filed in 2009.

It's a complicated case; Judge Wilken's decision weighs in at 99 pages [PDF]. For its part, the NCAA is none too pleased, but has released only a short statement, which reads in part: "We disagree with the Court's decision that NCAA rules violate antitrust laws." However, there's some good news for the NCAA: The organization will be able to set a cap on what schools pay players -- as long as those in its most popular leagues get at least $5,000 a year.

What is not clear is whether this paves the road for EA's NCAA sports franchises to re-emerge. The company suspended development of its NCAA Football series in 2013 thanks to the lawsuit (development of NCAA Basketball had ceased after 2009.) The NCAA and EA severed ties last year amidst the lawsuits. In fact, the NCAA itself had sued EA -- but dropped that suit when it settled with the players, for $20 million, alongside EA's payment of $40 million.

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Michael Joseph
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"as long as those in its most popular leagues get at least $5,000 a year."

ballpark figures... counting just scholarship student athletes for division I football and basketball (~25,000 players), @$5000 per is about $125 million a year. If you include non scholarship "walk-on" players, bump that up to $155 million.

The NCAA can afford that.

John Flush
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What I would like to see is sports games based on the sport again, and not based on semi-famous College brats. Instead of hundreds of graphics artist all recreating the flavor of the year, we could have improvements in actual game play instead.

I know though that I'm dreaming though. Sports fans seem to like their players more than the sport.

Michael Joseph
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brats? These young people have dedicated their formative years to excelling at an activity they love. Surely you can relate?

Most of the semi-famous "brats" you're referring to are helping to make a lot of money for schools and provide good paying white collar careers for everyone from athletic directors, broadcasters & journalists, local campus business owners, coaches (some who make big money on the side for contracts for shoes they make their players wear), training staff... everyone but the players who very often come from limited means - a small fraction of whom go on to earn a living playing their sport after graduation.

Why don't they all work for free?

You cannot separate players from their respective sports. Individuals are at the center of sports. To the extent they are made famous has less to do with fans and more to do with culture and business. To the extent things have changed from 50 years ago has more to do with how much clearer it is today to see how ugly and corrupting money is to all human endeavors.

Too many people want to blame the so-called sheep and not the shepherds leading them.