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EA loses appeal on suit from ex-NCAA athletes

Circuit court sides with former players claiming publisher took their likenesses for collegiate football and basketball games

This might be what the NCAA had in mind when it cut ties with EA's college football series. NBC News is reporting that a US federal appeals court has backed a lower court's ruling that EA illegally used the likenesses of ex-NCAA athletes in its football and basketball series without compensation.

While Circuit Judge Jay Bybee wrote in the majority opinion that EA "literally recreates [Arizona State University quarterback Samuel] Keller in the very setting in which he has achieved renown," the dissenting Circuit Judge Sidney Thomas noted that players could change that likeness however they saw fit with the game's customization options. EA told NBC News it was disappointed in the decision, and that it would seek further review.

EA has spent years defending its sports games in court. Beyond an anti-trust suit that it settled last year for $27 million and a pledge to drop exclusivity on the NCAA license, it has also faced multiple suits from former athletes over their depictions in EA games. The company is still facing a pair of lawsuits over the uncompensated use of player likenesses originally filed in 2009, one by UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon and another from Rutgers University quarterback Ryan Hart.

When the NCAA announced earlier this month that it wouldn't be renewing its contract with EA, it noted legal costs as one reason.

"We are confident in our legal position regarding the use of our trademarks in video games," the NCAA said at the time. "But given the current business climate and costs of litigation, we determined participating in this game is not in the best interests of the NCAA."

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Brendan Sinclair avatar

Brendan Sinclair

Managing Editor

Brendan joined GamesIndustry.biz in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot in the US.