In 2011, Electronic Arts joked that losing the lawsuit regarding player likenesses in NCAA Football games would be like getting hit by a giant meteoroid. This week, it appears that the meteoroid has landed.
The original suit claimed that EA had used Ryan Hart's likeness in NCAA Football without his permission. EA won the original suit, but Hart filed an appeal. A later class action claimed that EA and the NCAA colluded to have players sign away their rights. As legal pressure mounted, the NCAA was forced to terminate its license with EA. The publisher announced the cancellation of next year's College Football game as well, as it reconsiders the future of the franchise.
EA's settlement covers the original Hart case, along with claims made in the Keller, O'Bannon, and Alston cases. The amount and terms of the settlement are confidential pending a court filing.
Keller lead attorney Steve Berman said in a statement: "I can say that we are extraordinarily pleased with this settlement, whose terms we will be proud to present to the court and to the public. When we began this case in 2009, we were venturing into a new application of the law, with little precedent, while facing monumental legal hurdles."
EA successfully used a First Amendment defense when the case was first approached. However, Judge Jay Bybee said that EA's use of players' images "does not qualify for First Amendment protection as a matter of law because it literally recreates Keller in the very setting in which he has achieved renown."