US District Judge Claudia Wilken has refused to dismiss a class action suit that alleges EA conspired to use the likenesses of NCAA student athletes without compensation. The suit claims that the publisher and NCAA colluded in the decision to have players sign away their rights. While some of the other claims in the civil suit have been thrown out, this one is being allowed to go forward.
Gamasutra reports that the students allege they were required to sign a form as part of their deal to play NCAA sports. That form gave EA permission to use the students' likenesses as they were playing, and even after they had left the NCAA organization.
"The agreement does not distinguish between former and current student-athletes, even though, in the next sentence, it acknowledges that both may be encompassed within the word 'athlete,'" Judge Wilken wrote in her ruling, via Courthouse News Service. "In the context of antitrust plaintiffs' other allegations, on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, these terms can fairly be read to evidence a 'meeting of the minds' between EA and the other defendants not to compensate former student-athletes, where such a contract would interfere with the student-athletes' existing agreements with the NCAA."
That means at least a piece of the trial will go to court where EA will have to defend its case, unless it settles first. One estimate placed the cost of paying the athletes at $1 billion, though that was a worst-case scenario and EA shrugged off the claims. This civil class action suit is separate from the one filed by former Rutger's quarterback Ryan Hart, which EA won.