The Chicago Personal Injury Law Blog

College Athletes' Lawsuit Sacks NCAA Over Video-Game Rights

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Imagine opening a video game, turning it on, playing it, and realizing that you are staring at a digital representation of yourself. Pretty neat, right? Except, you were never paid for the use of your likeness. Someone else was. Your face, body, and even your jersey number are on the screens of kids playing sports video games across the country and you had no say in the matter.

That's the heart of the NCAA "likeness" and antitrust suit, Courthouse News Service reports. A class of former college starts is suing both the NCAA and EA Sports for their alleged use of the athletes' likeness without compensation, and for forcing them to waive their rights to receive payment even after they finish school.

Of course, there is some merit to the NCAA's side of the story. While the NCAA is making money off of the alleged likenesses, it's also responsible for running the games, tournaments, and leagues that allow these athletes to go to school for free and potentially end up in professional sports leagues. Besides, according to the NCAA, the athletes' likenesses aren't actually being used, and the names of the players have been changed.

The NCAA also got every single athlete to waive his right to compensation during and after his collegiate career.

Tell that to the starting quarterback who is staring at a video game character with the same skin tone, facial hair, jersey number, height, left-handedness and style of play. Everyone knows QB No. 11 is actually Matt Leinart.

The recent legal maneuvering in the case was done to certify the class of former players. This allows the court to define the classes of people represented, such as all former athletes from 2005 to 2011 who appeared in a video game. Once the class is established, the amount of damages sought can be estimated, and members of the class can be notified of their right to join the class-action lawsuit or opt out.

The beauty of a class-action lawsuit is that it can vindicate the rights of many without the expense and waste that would come from, say, 10,000 individual cases. The law firms and the named plaintiffs start the class-action case based on who they believe is part of the class. The court then certifies the class and the attorneys can then gather the masses. If someone does not wish to be part of the class, he can opt out and file his own individual lawsuit.

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