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EA settles in athlete likeness suit, will suspend NCAA Football

Electronic Arts has announced it is suspending development of its NCAA Football franchise, in conjunction with an announced settlement in a suit concerning unauthorized athlete likenesses.

Kris Ligman, Blogger

September 26, 2013

2 Min Read

Electronic Arts has announced it is cancelling development of its NCAA Football franchise, in conjunction with the announcement of a proposed settlement in a suit concerning the uncompensated likenesses of several student athletes. The announcement comes at the heels of a three-year court battle and, more recently, several months of legal back-and-forth, during which the NCAA and several other collegiate licensing companies announced they were pulling out of future licensing deals with EA, and EA filed an (unsuccessful) petition for dismissal. During this period, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled that human likenesses in games are not a form of protected speech. While EA's settlement with the plaintiffs doesn't necessarily represent a concession to this view, it does seem apparent EA didn't find the matter worth pursuing in this present case. "We are extraordinarily pleased with this settlement," attorney Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman (the law firm representing the student athletes), said in a statement. "When we filed the case [in 2009], we felt very strongly that EA's appropriation of student athletes' images for a for-profit venture was wrong, both in a legal sense and... a moral sense." The terms of the settlement have not yet been disclosed, although Hagens Berman indicated intentions to share said information with the U.S. District Court and the general public in the near future. In the short term, the effect of the settlement is that EA has been dropped from the student athletes' class action lawsuit, leaving the plaintiffs to pursue legal action against the NCAA. "The NCAA intentionally looked the other way while EA commercialized the likenesses of students," Berman contended in the statement. The NCAA has maintained that it was not involved in any such licensing. In keeping with the timing of the proposed settlement, EA Sports also released a statement that it will be suspending development of its NCAA Football line, with plans to reassess the state of the franchise at a later date. "The ongoing legal issues combined with increased questions surrounding schools and conferences have left us in a difficult position -- one that challenges our ability to deliver an authentic sports experience," EA Sports' Cam Weber said in the announcement. "We are evaluating our plan for the future of the franchise." As we previously reported, it's entirely possible for the franchise to go on without the NCAA branding. This article originally stated that development on EA Sports' NCAA Football 14 had been cancelled, but that is incorrect. The article has been revised to accurately reflect the statement from EA.

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