SBD/May 22, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

Appellate Court Reverses Dismissal Of Lawsuit Against EA By Former Rutgers QB

Hart claims his image was used in EA Sports' "NCAA Football" without permission
Former Rutgers QB Ryan Hart "got a favorable call" against EA Sports yesterday, with a federal appeals court "reversing the dismissal of his lawsuit claiming his image in the popular 'NCAA Football' video game was used without his permission," according to Ted Sherman of the Newark STAR-LEDGER. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals "found that while EA’s video games may be protected under the First Amendment as a work of free expression, the use of the Rutgers star did little more than depict his real-life exploits on the field." Judge Joseph Greenaway said, "The digital Ryan Hart does what the actual Ryan Hart did while at Rutgers: He plays college football, in digital recreations of college football stadiums, filled with all the trappings of a college football game." Hart's attorneys said that EA "basically stole the identities of players like Hart for profit, without the permission or compensation of athletes" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 5/22). The court ruled that Hart "can try to collect some of the profits EA made" from the '04-06 editions of "NCAA Football." The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Joe Palazzolo notes the lawsuit is "unlikely to see trial in the foreseeable future." EA Corporate Communications Senior Dir John Reseburg said that the company "plans to appeal." It could "ask the Third Circuit to rehear the case or petition the U.S. Supreme Court to review it." The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is "considering a similar lawsuit" filed by former Arizona State QB Sam Keller and other former players. If that panel "rules in favor of EA, the split could entice the Supreme Court to review the issue" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/22).
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