In 2008 onetime American football star Jim Brown took Electronic Arts and Sony to court over the use of his likeness in EA's Madden games without his approval. Now, nearly eight years later, EA is paying $600,00 to settle the case.
It's an intriguing case to study, especially for devs who have an interest in how American courts view the use of celebrity likenesses in video games.
Brown's initial lawsuit alleged that the use of a character in some Madden games who looked like him but did not bear his name or jersey number was nevertheless a "false endorsement."
A federal judge in Los Angeles initially dismissed Brown's case in 2009, agreeing with EA's argument that the use was within the company's First Amendment rights. Brown appealed the decision in 2010, and seems to have continued the legal fight until EA offered $600,00 in exchange for a dismissal of the case.
Incidentally, earlier this year EA failed to revive a similar "free speech" defense in a very similar case filed against it by other former NFL players whose likenesses were used in Madden games without permission or compensation.
In 2013, the company settled another similar suit brought against it by student athletes who alleged their likenesses were used without permission or compensation in EA's NCAA Football games. The settlement led EA to shut down the NCAA Football franchise and pay out roughly $40 million in legal fees and compensation.