Saturday, May 31, 2014

Video Game Settlement: one step closer to paying players?

EA Sports settled their class action lawsuit with former college players. Ed O'Bannon was the named plaintiff and there wasn't a high-profile BC athlete attached, but this should impact BC sports. This pretty much ends any chance of future NCAA video games. But it also sets a precedent for former players to recoup revenue from their likenesses.

I'm not a lawyer, but I think something like this has more legs than Northwestern players unionizing. The unionizing will take multiple teams joining in and could get caught up in courts. This settlement will put a check (albeit a small one) in the hands of former players.

Who knows how this will all play out? My only real prediction is that we will follow the lead of the schools we want to be associated with (like Duke and Notre Dame). But what the means or when change happens is a mystery.


Scott said...
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Scott said...

You are over reading the tea leaves on this one ... And it's easy to understands why, because the plaintiffs are working the PR machine 24/7.

This settlement was made 9 months ago (just now approved), and the amount is far less than the cost of defense for EA, so it doesn't send much of signal to any the aftermarket purchasers of college licensed products (including apparel, TV, etc).

Also, this settlement only sends money to former athletes whose likenesses were used in the more recent video games that allowed you play legendary dynasty teams from the past, like O'Bannon!s UCLA championship from the 9os. So maybe Flutie will get a few bucks.

But it doesn't pay any money to current student athletes whose likeness appears in the game. Nor does it pay royalties to ex athletes for the years they appeared in games as current college athletes.

In other words, the settlement doesn't undermine amateurism model.

The case now goes to trial vs the NCAA to see if they can reverse Supreme Court precedent that allows the NCAA to enforce amateurs (no pay for play). Unfortunately, the plaintiffs lost class certification on all issues related to damages, so the current trial includes only 20-30 ex athletes trying to recover want past pay, and current student athletes who are really just suing for a cost-of-living stipend.

mod34b said...

I see no reason this type of NCAA video game featuring famous athletes images can't go forward.

EA simply has to use players/schools who agree in advance to allow their image to be used in return for a royalty payment. In other words, EA can pay for the rights.

Scott said...
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Scott said...


It's more complicated than you realize.

The only licenses EA has with the NCAA relate Colleges' & Conferences' names/logos/mascots. Those licenses don't convey any publicity rights relating to student athletes (which is why the college video game doesn't display the players's names or photographs.)

That can never change because the NCAA's amatuer/eligibility rules preclude athletes from getting paid for anything related to the sport they play.

This is different than the NFL Madden video game, where EA paid the NFLPA for a blanket license to use the players' name, photo, voice, etc.

There are lot of side issues in the O'Bannon case, but ultimately it's an antitrust challenge the NCAA's amatuerism rules which preclude students from negotiating use licenses with EA.

So EA is dropping the college game to insulate from future antitrust challenges to the NCAA's eligibility rules.

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