Publisher reaches settlement with student athletes in likeness legal battle
EA is halting development on its NCAA Football franchise as it reaches a proposed settlement on the lawsuit over the uncompensated likenesses of student athletes.
The legal battle has been raging for three years, but recently the publisher lost a motion for dismissal and the NCAA and other licensing companies announced they were pulling out of future deals with EA.
The college athletes won a landmark victory in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that human likenesses are not protected speech, striking a major blow to EA's main line of defense on the case.
“Today I am sad to announce that we will not be publishing a new college football game next year, and we are evaluating our plan for the future of the franchise,” said EA's general manager of American Football Cam Weber.
“The ongoing legal issues combined with increased questions surrounding schools and conferences have left us in a difficult position – one that challenges our ability to deliver an authentic sports experience, which is the very foundation of EA SPORTS games.”
The terms of the settlement have not yet been disclosed, though the student's law firm Hagens Berman reportedly intends to share more information in the near future.
“When we filed the case, we felt very strongly that EA’s appropriation of student-athletes’ images for a for-profit venture was wrong, both in a legal sense and from a more fundamental moral perspective,” said attorney Steve Berman of Hagens Berman.
“We hold that the NCAA intentionally looked the other way while EA commercialized the likenesses of students, and it did so because it knew that EA’s financial success meant a bigger royalty check to the NCAA.”
Its worth noting that the settlement doesn't necessarily mean EA has conceded the point, but the company has been dropped from the lawsuit.
EA could re-open the franchise at a later date, but in the meantime the company is trying to find new work for the NCAA Football team elsewhere in the company.
The future of NCAA Football could rest on the result of the legal battle which, whith EA on the bench, will be waged between the NCAA and the student athletes.
“We are looking forward to presenting our case against the NCAA to a jury at trial,” said Berman.
“We believe the facts will reveal a startling degree of complicity and profiteering on the backs of student athletes.”