A federal judge in Los Angeles has dismissed a lawsuit against Electronic Arts levied by retired NFL player Jim Brown, who had alleged that the use of a player similar to him in the Madden NFL
games constituted a "false endorsement."
Brown's name never appeared in the games, but took issue with the presence of a player with his likeness. The federal judge supported EA's argument that it was exercising its First Amendment rights, reports the New York Times
"The Madden NFL
video games are expressive works, akin to an expressive painting that depicts celebrity athletes of past and present in a realistic sporting environment," said United States District Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper.
But Brown, now joined by fellow retired NFL player Herb Adderley, aren't done fighting EA over the alleged appearance of their likenesses in EA Sports title. They've asked for court permission to support a separate case, a suit by college basketballer Sam Keller contesting the use of college players in EA's NCAA titles. The NCAA is backing EA's free speech argument in favor of the games.
Keller and the NFL retirees claim that a dismissal of the Keller case would "significantly harm" other athletes, according to the report.
A group of retired pro football players recently settled
a lawsuit against the NFL Players Association for $26 million for improperly licensing their images.
Although in Brown's case Judge Cooper did not find the use of his likeness constituted a false endorsement, she said Brown and players with similar grievances could file a new California lawsuit under a right-of-publicity claim.
On the recent ruling, EA spokesman Jeff Brown said in a statement to the Times: "We’re pleased with the decision and believe it is consistent with other rulings, which affirm video games are expressive works protected by the First Amendment."