A U.S. District Court judge in California has cleared the way today for a class-action suit by former NFL players to continue over the objections of Madden NFL franchise publisher Electronic Arts. The suit represents more than 6,000 retired players, including Tony Davis, Vince Ferragamo and Billy Joe DuPree.
The suit focuses on Madden NFL 09's historic teams, and alleges that EA used the players' likenesses in the game without their permission. EA filed a motion to dismiss, saying that California law and the First Amendment allow it to use the players' likenesses in its games without compensation. However, U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg rejected EA's claims, allowing the case to proceed, according to a release from the attorney for the former players.
The game did not include player names or original uniform numbers, but players can edit the roster to include them. The suit alleges that, despite this fact, the likenesses of the players are obvious and that skill levels, height and weight for players in the game were consistent with their real life counterparts.
John Keefer posted a new article, Former NFL players suit againt EA continues.
Court allows suit by former NFL players against Electronic Arts over Madden NFL games to continue.
I don't know what specific California laws EA pointed to in their MOTD, but it certainly sounds like a classic case of right of publicity/appropriation of name or likeness for commercial use.