2010 lawsuit to proceed
A lawsuit filed by former NFL players in 2010 has been ordered to proceed now that the court of appeals has rejected gaming giant EA’s pleas to dismiss the case. The lawsuit that EA faces now is similar to that of the 2013 NCAA football players’ case that accused the gaming company of using the likeness of real-life players without permission or compensation. The college football case led to the cancellation of EA’s NCAA football video game in 2014.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that EA’s usage of the players’ avatars in the NFL Madden franchise was not unintentional, and cannot be covered by the First amendment. The court added that the gaming company did very little to amend the players’ avatars into works of art.
“EA's use of the former players' likenesses is not incidental, because it is central to EA's main commercial purpose - to create a realistic virtual simulation of football games involving current and former NFL teams," wrote Circuit Judge Raymond Fisher.
Former Los Angeles Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo, Oakland Raiders’ Sam Keller, and two other ex-NFL players were named as plaintiffs. Keller was also a plaintiff in the 2013 college case against EA, which led to a $40-million settlement for the football players.
"We're disappointed with the panel's decision," said John Reseburg, a spokesperson for EA. "We believe in the First Amendment right to create expressive works - in any form - that relate to real-life people and events, and will seek further court review to protect it."
The video game industry remains to be one of the most lucrative businesses in the world, and thanks to the increasing popularity of new gaming platforms such as tablets and smartphones, it seems the industry is showing no signs of slowing down. According to the gaming company that handles the entertainment hub Spin Genie, more than 80% of the players it serves are now playing on mobile, which mirrors the shift of the global community's preferences when it comes to gaming.
Riding on this shift, EA now reaches a bigger audience by carrying popular titles for its mobile market, including the Madden NFL franchise for both Android and iOS.
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