THE BUZZ: EA is heading to court over a lawsuit brought against them by some 6,000 retired NFL players, after a judge has allowed the suit to proceed.
The suit claims that EA used the likenesses of the players in NFL 09’s historic teams without seeking permission first. The developer knowingly used the exact player stats from the time that they were active in the game including height and weight, but simply removed their names and swapped shirt numbers to avoid paying licensing fees.
Those invovled can easily identify which historic player they are in the game, and are suing EA for damages covering profits related to the use of their likenesses as well as attorney fees.
EGM’s TAKE: These players might have a case, you can’t use someone’s likeness in a game without seeking permissions first. EA believed it could avoid paying licensing fees on the players by leaving out direct reference to them (names and numbers), a shrewd move that probably saved them a fair bit of money. But will a judge or jury see it that way? This is an important suit that could determine how classic players are treated in the future. Is it okay to put a vague mask on them and use them without permission, or will companies have to pay? With the number of players involved it seems that the ultimate loser might be gamers who won’t get any classic players, named or not, in the future should EA be held responsible. After all, who’s going to want to hand out that many more checks.