EA Sports has been at the center of two law suits, O’Bannon and Keller aka In re Student-Athlete Likeness Litigation, relating to the use and licensing of student-athlete likenesses. EA Sports’ use of student-athlete likenesses in its popular videogames has been heavily scrutinized and debated. There have been numerous articles, legal symposia, and academic discussions bemoaning this practice. It appears this debate from an antitrust perspective is over.
Judge Claudia Wilken, United States District for the Northern District of California, dismissed Ed O’Bannon’s complaint against EA Sports. The O’Bannon class sets forth arguments that EA Sports, CLC, and NCAA conspired to require all current student-athletes to sign forms each year that requires them to relinquish all of their rights in perpetuity for use of their images, likenesses, and/or names to deny student-athletes compensation. However, Judge Wilken stated O’Bannon’s amended complaint does not contain any allegations to suggest that EA Sports agreed to participate in the alleged conspiracy. Although O’Bannon’s antitrust claims against EA Sports were dismissed, Keller’s claims (right of publicity) against EA Sports continue. EA Sports attempted to have Keller’s claims dismissed also, but such request was denied. EA Sports is currently appealing the ruling by stating Keller’s claims violate California’s anti-slapp laws.