EA sued by 6000 sports players

American football veterans claiming unauthorised use of their likeness in Madden NFL

6000 retired American football players have filed a class action lawsuit against EA, concerning the alleged use of their likeness in Madden NFL 09.

The veterans claim that EA altered their names and uniforms, but based player models for the game's 140 'historic teams' on their appearance whilst still active sportsmen.

The suit is demanding damages for deprivation and violation of publicity rights, accusing EA of "blatant and prolific" infringement. "EA has purposefully chosen to use the unauthorised likenesses of retired NFL players," read the lawsuit, made to a California court and going on to allege that the publisher had earned significant revenue from the NFL series.

"The only significant detail that EA changes from the real-life retired NFL players is their jersey number. Despite EA's 'scrambling' of the retired NFL players' numbers, the games are designed so that consumers of the Madden NFL video game franchise will have no difficulty identifying who the 'historic' players are."

It claims in addition that players can very easily recreate the correct names and uniform numbers.

EA has refused comment requested by IGN, stating that it does not release statements about pending litigation.

This is not the first time that the publisher has been involved in legal complications regarding player likenesses. Last year, the NFL Players Association forked over $26 million to 2000 retired players demanding lost royalties from the use of their likeness in multiple fields including EA's Madden NFL games.

The complete lawsuit (in PDF format) may be read here.

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Latest comments (8)

gi biz ;, 6 years ago
Why is EA always involved in fishy businesses?
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mb Level Designer 6 years ago
How is this fishy? What about when Konami slightly changed football players' names in ISS 64 but included a rename feature? Or that awful F1 game which reversed the first and last letters of players' names making Shichael Mihumacher. Were they just more innocent times? Will be interesting to see where the law stands on this one. Scary.
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Derek Leyva Writer 6 years ago
Seems like EA's legal team dropped the ball on this one, someone should of seen this coming.
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Show all comments (8)
Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 6 years ago
God almighty, how long were they thinking they could get away with this for?
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Sam Maxted Journalist / Community / Support 6 years ago
I agree with Martin - this sort of thing's been around for years if not decades, and this is the first I've heard (or at least can remember hearing) of someone complaining / suing over it.

EDIT: Re-reading the article, I guess it would come down to how much the in-game graphics look like the players in question. This wouldn't be such an issue a couple of hardware generations ago, but could be now, with the higher level of detail available..?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Sam Maxted on 3rd August 2010 1:14pm

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Patrick Williams Medicine and Research 6 years ago
This is simply double dipping on part of the retired players. I understand their complaint, but they're suing EA for the same reason they sued the NFLPA. Since they were successful there, they're looking to see where the next jackpot is.

You can't kneejerk and blame EA for being an evil conglomerate because it is completely unreasonable for them to deal with individual players (or individual teams for that matter, see below). They work with the NFL and the NFLPA to do this. Putting them on the hook for something the NFLPA already paid for when they worked with the NFLPA seems a little weird, but I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know how this stands.

I believe there is another lawsuit that involved the NFL and exclusively dealing with 1 company for sports apparel. I think the NFL lost here and the teams were given the right to individually make deals with who they wanted. While this had obvious implications for EA, it also made things very strange because if all the teams wanted a game of their own, then there would be over 20 NFL games made a year with no one to play against. It would be silly.
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Richard Westmoreland Game Desginer, Exient Ltd6 years ago
It will be interesting to see the outcome.' Unofficial' games (such as Pro Evo) have always done this. You can't really criticise EA for doing the same thing.
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James Verity6 years ago
they have a choice pay up and stop trying to hide the fact (badly) they are using real players or switch to using fictional characters properly...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by James Verity on 3rd August 2010 6:08pm

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