For some time now, a dispute has been debated over the likeness of NFL players in Madden NFL.
Not only does Madden NFL include exact “height, weight, position, experience, and athletic skills” of each player, but Madden takes “likeness” one step further to accurately portray physical features…without paying for the privilege.
San Francisco U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg declares this is the “digital equivalent” of using a celebrity’s name, picture, etc. to sell merchandise like T-shirts. Although EA pays for the use of select players and retirees in Madden NFL, the lawsuit would benefit the 6,000 NFL retirees that receive no compensation for “commercial use of their name and likeness.”
The lawsuit was filed by Tampa Bay’s running back Tony Davis, Los Angeles Rams’ quarterback Vince Ferragamo, and Dallas tight end Billy Joe DuPree. Just last week, Judge Seeborg deemed it okay for the lawsuit to proceed, contrary to EA’s dismissal of the lawsuit as similar to the use of statistics in fantasy baseball. According to Seeborg, the main difference here is the integration of “players’ images and likeness,” which he refers to as “their legal property.” It makes sense that a player (or ex-player as the case may be) should receive compensation and credit for a game featuring themselves.
Since EA’s fantasy baseball argument fell apart in the face of the judge, it will be interesting to see how EA combats the lawsuit from here. Just how much money will be due to these renowned NFL players?
KitGuru says: Lesson learned – if you decide to create a sports game, compensate the players represented in your game! Seems fairly intuitive, but c’est la vie. Sometimes the boundaries must be pushed for companies to recognize the errors of their ways.