EA settles video game lawsuit with former players

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by Chris Daniels

KREM.com

Posted on September 27, 2013 at 5:46 AM

Updated Friday, Sep 27 at 6:00 AM

Renton, Wash. - Mkristo Bruce was once a towering figure on the football field.  He was a Pac-10 first teamer, who spent his spare time studying, and playing EA's Sports NCAA football game.

"A lot of us guys would get together in the dorm rooms and play ourselves in the game," says Bruce.  He always loved using #94, in the Crimson and Gray, but knew the player looked a lot like him.

"You know it's you, and you know in the NFL those guys are getting paid for it, and somebody's making money off you in the game," says Bruce, "It was always a concern. We're over here eating Top Ramen, we'd like to have a little bit of that."

The now Sales Manager at Brotherton Cadillac in Renton will likely be getting a little bit in the near future.

Electronic Arts agreed to a settlement Thursday in a class action case involving former NCAA student-athletes.  Attorney for the players say up to 300,000 current and former football players may have a claim for the use of their likeness in the popular "NCAA Football" video game franchise.

"College athletes whose image has been used in video games will be compensated for that use," says Steve Berman, who is representing former Arizona State quarterback Sam Keller.  "The law in every state allows that your likeness, whether you're an athlete or not, cannot be used in commercial purposes without compensation or your permission."

The Seattle-based attorney says the settlement, subject to a judge's approval, is just a step in settling a four year old case surrounding the video game.  Former athletes had argued that EA was unlawfully using their likeness, including body size, facial features, number and height.  Berman says the NCAA is next.

"The NCAA was very hypocritical, they said student's can't use their likenesses, can't profit, then they went and had contracts be had where colleges made money off the student athlete.  So we want to target the NCAA here, they're the bad guy," says Berman.

Sports Illustrated contributor and University of New Hampshire Sports & Entertainment Institute Director Michael McCann believes the case does not bode well for the NCAA.

"If I had to wager, I'd guess the NCAA is likely to settle," says McCann.  "Even if EA has to pay the players, I think it put the NCAA in a position of changing the definition of amateurs," he added, and said the final settlement terms will be key to the resolution with the NCAA.

The NCAA had already announced it would not renew its EA Sports contract.

Electronic Arts said in a statement attributed to Cam Weber, GM of American Football for EA Sports:

"We will not be publishing a new college football game next year, and we are evaluating our plan for the future of the franchise."  He added, "We have been stuck in the middle of a dispute between the NCAA and student-athletes who seek compensation for playing college football. Just like companies that broadcast college games and those that provide equipment and apparel, we follow rules that are set by the NCAA – but those rules are being challenged by some student-athletes.  For our part, we are working to settle the lawsuits with the student-athletes."

Bruce said he'll be watching how the case is settled.

"If you want to pass out checks, I'll take one for sure."

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