EA, NCAA sued over sports-sim likenesses

Former Arizona State QB files class-action suit over publisher, organization's "conspiracy" to use college athletes' names, stats in annual football, basketball games.

by

In November, a group of retired NFL players won a $28.1 million judgment against the National Football League Players Association related to the use of the former pros' names and likenesses in EA's annual Madden football simulation. The group's spokesperson went on to promise further litigation targeted at EA, and if and when that legal complaint materializes, it will join a suit lobbing similar complaints against NCAA Football.

That isn't Kristofer O'Dowd throwing a block for Mark Sanchez, if anyone's asking.

Earlier this week, former Arizona State and University of Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller filed a class-action suit against Electronic Arts, the National Collegiate Athletics Association, and the Collegiate Licensing Company. In his suit, which extends to all relevant student athletes, Keller claims that EA, the NCAA, and the CLC are in cahoots to violate bylaws that prohibit the use of collegiate athletes' names and likenesses in the publisher's NCAA Football and NCAA Basketball sports sims.

"Despite clear prohibitions on the use of student names and likenesses in NCAA bylaws, contracts, and licensing agreements, Electronic Arts utilizes the likenesses of individual student-athletes in its NCAA basketball and football video games to increase sales and profits," reads the suit. "Electronic Arts also intentionally circumvents the prohibitions on utilizing student athletes' names in commercial ventures by allowing gamers to upload entire rosters, which include players' names and other information, directly into the game in a matter of seconds."

Keller's complaint notes that NCAA bylaw 12.5 "specifically prohibits the commercial licensing of an NCAA athlete's 'name, picture, or likeness,'" and that all Division 1 NCAA student athletes must sign a contract acknowledging the rule to be eligible to compete.

However, the suit claims that the NCAA is not honoring these rules and that it continues to sign off on games produced by EA that strive to be as realistic as possible. "With rare exception, virtually every real-life Division I football or basketball player in the NCAA has a corresponding player in Electronic Arts' games with the same jersey number, and virtually identical height, weight, build, and home state. In addition, Electronic Arts matches the player's skin tone, hair color, and often even a player's hair style."

In particular, Keller's suit called out Kent State running back Eugene Jarvis. "Eugene Jarvis, for example, stands a mere 5'5" and weighs only 170 pounds. He is also an African-American red-shirt junior from Pennsylvania who wears number 6 for the Golden Flashes. And although he is extremely talented, Mr. Jarvis is unusually small for a college football player. For these reason, one would expect a randomly generated virtual running back for the Golden Flashes to be somewhat dissimilar to Mr. Jarvis."

The suit goes on to note that Number 6 for the Golden Flashes in NCAA Football 2009 perfectly matches Jarvis' real-life information. Keller's complaint goes on to note several other such occurrences in the game, and the many ways in which those who play EA's game can input specific character traits of real-world players into the NCAA games.

Keller is seeking to block the future use of players' names and likenesses. The suit also seeks monetary damages, the disgorgement of all earnings related to the previous games, as well as the destruction of all infringing games in EA or third parties' possession.

Discussion

123 comments
jeremiah06
jeremiah06

@jthvikes I'm a gamer, and I like madden and NCAA games, but Sam is right, EA is in the wrong for using the likeness of these college players. Its clearly stated in the NCAA bylaws that the likeness can't be used yet NCAA lets EA put out these games every year. That's said I don't think Sam should get money on behalf of all the other players effect by this law. EA should have to either divide the money evenly between all the other players likeness used, pay the NCAA or donate the money to charity. In any case EA should pay those rules are there to protect the players who can't make any deals or make and money from their talent from others like EA from doing so...

lhscouchmonster
lhscouchmonster

all the gamers are thinking about the games. true this is a gamer site, but dont be idiots. if they are using someoens likeness, that person should benefit. there scholarship is not being payed by EA and if the EA money given to the NCAA dries up, college football will not be hurt. a free education is not payment enough. these guys barely get an education while at college anyways.

jhawkred
jhawkred

[Part 1 of 3] Normally, I don't usually comment on topics. It's usually pretty fun to just watch the verbal chess-match/free-for-all unfold. However, on this point, I feel like I have a little bit of experience, and I'm reasonably sure more than most on this board. Playing four years for a Div 1 program, (a money making one at that) has given me a unique perspective: 1. NCAA does allow stipends. When on scholarship, student athletes receive a monthly stipend. It's factored based on a number of things (how much the school can afford, whether the SA is on a meal plan or lives on campus, etc.) Generally speaking that is in a range from $200-500 a month, depending on the school (and before you get all googly eyed "OMG they get $, STFU!!" realize that $500 only goes so far when it's meant to cover everything you do, including phone/car/cable bills and other things that a lot of SA don't have the luxury of parents to cover). NOT ALL universities do it, but from my experience, most well known ones do.

jhawkred
jhawkred

[Part 2 of 3] 2. NCAA rules are stacked against the Student Athlete. Every year we met with compliance officers at our university who told us, "don't take money from boosters. They can't buy you lunch, they can't do you any favors, they can't drive you to school. And anyone that has every had anything to do with your school is a booster." Imagine how hard that is, in a college town, where most everyone could be considered a booster, to NEVER have anyone give you a favor/$ (since $ was easy to prove, favors were common). Ask Rick Majerus of Utah, who bought his player dinner after the player's dad died, and then was fined for it, if he thinks the NCAA has a stick up theirs. 3. NCAA is a cash cow! Not a monopoly??? YEAH RIGHT. Name one other amateur league that can sign multi-BILLION dollar contracts with network TV. The argument that Keller is just a disgruntled former athlete that didn't make it is a fair one. But there are thousands more just like him, who, as NCAA's own slogan goes, "will go pro in something other than sports." Yeah, it's "cool" to play the game. It's also cool to make a freaking living. Quite a few of my teammates had families that they were indirectly, and sometimes directly, supporting. Athletics is like having 2 full time jobs, with inflexible hours and bosses that yell at you. The perks are great. But how does that absolve the NCAA to what basically amounts as slave labor. Coaches can make millions, NCAA makes Billions, 99% of SA make nada.

jhawkred
jhawkred

[Part 3 of 3] There, I'm off my soapbox. All that being said, I still think the NCAA is doing the best it can. It has to uphold the concept that these athletes don't get paid (at least legally paid). Otherwise they're no different than the NBA/NFL/MLB. It's about the integrity of the sport. The solution lies in compensation. If the NCAA is making millions of dollars annually on merchandise rights (jerseys, posters, games, etc.) how does that mesh with the fact that SA can't promote themselves at all? It doesn't. Smarter people than I can't come to more agreeable decision than the current one. And anyone that says Keller is just a whining idiot is ignorant of the case. He has a point. Doesn't mean he's going about it in the best way, but it's a debate that's worth having. Me... I'm just happy that I'm actually in a couple video games... it gives a whole new meaning to playing with myself haha

terpriders
terpriders

goldeneyye basic: you are an idiot. The NCAA cannot allow only money making atheltes to get paid. That is discrimination, and while college had become big business, it is not a monopoly becasue other college leauges exist. This jerk off named Sam Keller should not get a dime because he had free education. Do you know how much a 4 year education costs at a major university? Probably not, judging by your post you most likely have a G.E.D.

terpriders
terpriders

is getting it right with EA Locker and making player models look real, this never was steps in and is trying to ruin everything. This guy was a failure on the field and is a failure in life.

MarcJL31
MarcJL31

So because he sucks and is a free agent, he decides to sue to get money. Way to go man. Bet you werent complaining when you were in college and prolly playing the game. It was cool then huh

jthvikes
jthvikes

Dear Gamespot users, I'm sorry I am a greedy idiot. But, as a washout college quarterback who can't make it to the NFL, I need to make an easy buck. So, even though it will either ruin or eliminate your college football and basketball games, I am trying to sue EA Sports and the NCAA for having my likeness in their games and making me (accurately) suck in those games. Sincerely, Sam Keller

unkosolz
unkosolz

The greedy bastard is going to make this game suck. Is he mad that his look-a-like sucked in the game? The game uploads names on the roster is true, but the names are random which makes him a liar. Throw out the damn case. You're making a lot of gamers, football and basketball players really angry.

knighthawksfan
knighthawksfan

Sam keller is an dumb ass and I hate that dude for trying to take the names and likeiness of the players of the game out. I mean u might as well make it back the way it was in ncaa football 07 which suck so bad.

necronaux
necronaux

Greedy jerks wasting everyones time, trying to make a fast buck... hmm... wait a minute... my uncle looks a lot like Mario, and he's a plumber! Law Suit!!! Cha-Ching!!!

Sparty_On
Sparty_On

Sam Keller is trying to make money thats all he is doing and his lawsuit should be throwin out because it's out right lies I hope Sam is the one coughing up money to EA & NCAA. GoldenEye Basic your dead wrong and it is a frivolous lawsuit that Sam Keller is bringing to court, if I were judge I would throw the case out and make Sam Keller pay for bringing a frivolous lawsuit to court.

Whicho17
Whicho17

Goldeneye Basic, you think they should get paid to play a game in college? I'm pretty sure that the 20k+ it costs to go to college for a year, depending on the school, is plenty. They rest of us who don't happen to be talented in a certain sport have to hope for academic scholarships or pay our own way. If thy're smart the will utilize why they are there and not have to worry about the loans that the rest of us have once we get out of school. As for the article, I believe that Sam Keller is doing this just because he can. There is no real reason someone should be concerned about this. He saw what the retired NFL players did and thought that was a good idea and he should get paid for being a decent quarterback and EA deciding to put someone who fits his description in the game. He should drop it and get a job versus trying to make a quick buck.

Killzone_Master
Killzone_Master

wow this is sooo stupid. Sam Keller is retarted..EA better win this case or imma be mad. Hey guys looks like all the stadiums in NCAA that are meant to look like the real thing are probably gonna get banned also, i wouldnt be surprised if this happened as well.

goldeneye_basic
goldeneye_basic

Osceola76, you think they should pay to play on those teams? Maybe pro's should pay to play as well, because it is all just fun they are having right? Maybe anybody that has a job where they learn new things from it or enjoy doing it should pay to do that instead of getting paid. The fact is, we get paid to do jobs because the companies we work for make money from us. That is why companies hire people. The NCAA is a multi-billion dollar organization. You don't think that it should give up a chunk of that change to the ones making them all that money? I'm not saying that they should get millions themselves, but how about a cost of living stipend. Lets say $20K a year cash, and only to the athletes of sports that make money. If the NCAA didn't exist, then there would be another collegiate organization to enhance their skills. If not, then they would all still be on the same playing field entering the pros from high school. The NCAA is a monopoly. Most of these athletes really don't have another choice to play at that level anywhere else. It enforces strict rules on the athletes, but it doesn't follow those same rules itself. Good luck to anyone that wants to go pro without going through the NCAA. On another note. This lawsuit really isn't focusing on user created content. It just mentions it but it is not the main point. Why are so many of you acting like it is. According to the article, the game comes from EA with the players likenesses already in it. Thus, the Eugene Jarvis example. Sam Keller really would not have a leg to stand on if it was only user created content that he had a problem with.

Beesters
Beesters

I also want to state that, if a consumer purchaes a product, and edits the information on a football player, then how can a company be responsible for what an outside source does to their product? Which goes back to the file upload, someone had to maket he roster themselves, so how can EA be responsible of what an outside source does to the product? Lets say they took away the EA Locker, does he not know that there is a thing that you can actually upload files to a memory card and transfer over to your xbox 360 hardware? I have one, but havent used it in a couple of years. Get a life Keller, quit trying to make a name for yourself.

Beesters
Beesters

Sam Keller must not have many friends then, and certainly not now. No one had a problem this entire time, besides the whole NFL thing, which is fixed. So if you take away the real feel for this game, it will certainly ruin companies, which would make the unemployment even worse. Wheres Obama when you need him.

Osceola76
Osceola76

By the way, you pay money to take classes......maybe the athletes should pay money to play on the football teams. They are, in a way, taking the best football and basketball classes in the world....for free, whether they walk on or not. Those students who walk on do it through their own ambition, not because it is a major requirement. College athletes should not get paid, they already get enough incentives as it is.

Osceola76
Osceola76

@ goldeneye_basic I don't think college players should be paid for being athletes is because being on a college athletics team not only gives these athletes great training towards the sport, but it also gives them an opportunity to enter the professional realm of sports. And just because a player doesn't go to a big school like Texas or USC, doesn't mean they don't get the exposure. Take a look at Joe Flacco for example: drafted in the first round of the NFL draft, but played in a Division I-AA team which usually don't get TV exposure. If it wasn't for the NCAA, some of these athletes would not even have an opportunity to compete at the next level. I know for a fact that the majority of athletes are either excited that their likeness is in the games, or just don't really care. For example, I took a class with Pat White, and he said that it's awesome, though he feels he's faster than the game makes him. Sam Keller is just mad because he was not able to cash in at the pro level. I'm sure that if the Arena Football League didn't fold, this case would not have been presented by this guy.

drjdh
drjdh

Its just more Liberal Lawyers suing people and institutions to take away more of our freedoms to benefit NO ONE EXCEPT THEIR OWN WALLETS!

goldeneye_basic
goldeneye_basic

@butterlou, first of all, not every athlete gets a scholarship. Second, what Division a school is does not determine the tuition. A lot of Division I colleges are public universities, with tuition less than $10,000 a year. I graduated from one and the most I ever paid was about $7200 for my last year. A lot of Division III colleges are private and cost almost $30,000 a year. Now, lets look at a typical Division I University and it's football or basketball program. Let us also assume that every player is getting a full ride. This is usually not the case, maybe 75% get some kind of scholarship. The tuition, room and board, and books would be about $20,000/year. That is almost how much I made a year during college working a low wage part-time job, not including my tuition reimbursement. These players are making their college millions of dollars. Their coach is typically signed to a multi-million dollar contract. Yet the players are not allowed to make any money whatsoever, including taking gifts such as shoes, clothing, a free lunch, or anything else of little value. Their travel can not be considered compensation since it is for their sport. Many times the travel is a long bus ride. When they arrive, they practice during most of their free time and they have curfews. It isn't like they are on vacation. Remember, not everybody gets a scholarship. So, $20K times 50 football players is a million dollars. $20K times 12 basketball players is only $240K. Plus, giving free tuition really does not cost the college nearly that much money because it is just letting a few more people sit in on lectures that are typically taught by grad students, not professors. There is a lot of money left over. That might be better than any paying job in a third world country, but in this country, a job that pays $20,000/ year would put you near the poverty line. I know of graduate programs that give full rides and a $15,000 a year stipend. sweeneystephen, there is no way the NCAA game series would end if it loses this lawsuit. The NCAA makes billions of dollars. Just think of how much money they make from all those packed college stadiums (which many of them hold more fans than NFL stadiums). Plus, there are television rights, merchandising, and of course video games. I wouldn't be surprised if NCAA Football makes more than the NFL and NCAA basketball makes more than the NBA. If it lost this lawsuit, then it would have to give up a small percentage of its huge pile of money. I somehow get the feeling that most of you that are against this lawsuit think that EA will raise the prices of its video games or the NCAA will raise the prices of tickets. Can someone please give me a good reason why NCAA players should not make any money from playing their sport for their college? The integrity of the game reason is not a good one. I do believe that once an athlete turns pro, he or she should not be allowed to compete at the college level anymore. The NCAA is fascist and doesn't even follow its own rules.

ANTIverson
ANTIverson

I like how most of you commenting have no idea what you're talking about. But then again, I'm not too surprised.

sweeneystephen
sweeneystephen

Go to hell Sam Keller. NCAA players are not allowed to be paid in anyway. If he somehow wins this irritating lawsuit, then the end result would have to be the end of the NCAA game series.

07pops07
07pops07

"and the many ways in which those who play EA's game can input specific character traits of real-world players into the NCAA games. " so wait if EA lets you customize you peoples stats and randome guy in alaska puts stats simialar to yours thats EAs fault what bs. so if i go on my wii and make a mii thats looks like micheal jackson he should be compasated by nintendo? this is just what EA needs as they losing money another law suit where they can pay a bunch of lawers and probably end up paying these mofos. also doesnt this worry you "The group's spokesperson went on to promise further litigation targeted at EA "

starbright_2012
starbright_2012

I thought, upon entering an agreement to play, you sign over your rights to make any kind of outside monetary settlement from endorsements or putting your likeness out in any way. So, if he wins the case, does that mean he's not going to see any of the money anyway? We are dealing with the archaic and money hungry NCAA after all.

CWSoccer07
CWSoccer07

I can see not using people's names. But likeness is so abstract. When is the line drawn on likeness? Uhh, he's white, and the guy that plays that position in real life is white, so you can't do that. In reality, there has to be some semblance of likeness, because, HELLO, it's based off real-life, not an imaginary football league. I don't see the downside of having likeness in the game? Did he get that bad of a rating?

Chaotic_Peace
Chaotic_Peace

Sounds like somebody didn't like their rating....

butterlou
butterlou

You guys that are for Sam Keller do realize that it isn't just EA. It's the Collegiate Licensing Company. What these kids really don't understand or realize is that a scholarship IS NOT free. Tuition can be as much as $10,000 A SEMESTER at a Division 3 school. This is Division 1. College kids SHOULD NOT be paid. That is a ridiculous idea especially when THEY ARE BEING PAID through that scholarship, training, meals, room and board, TRAVEL, that is better than ANY paying job I know! Sam Keller should be proud his likeness was used. Now, when he cashes in whatever thousands he gets, after he pays the millions portions to the lawyers, I hope he is satisfied to have ruined not just one but two of the biggest sport franchises. This is a problem in our society. Matter of fact if you excuse me, I going to dawn my #50 Carolina Jersey (BY NO WAY IS IT HANSBROUGH) rob my neighbor's house then sue him for the damages I incure while crawling thru his window... that I broke.

oldboy36
oldboy36

NCAA threatens to sues everybody so now the shoes on the other foot good. They threatened to sue nasa for pete's sake! He is going to lose but I dont care. I dont think EA is at fault NCCA is.

goldeneye_basic
goldeneye_basic

@stziggy, I agree. The NCAA is the biggest piece of sh#@ sports organization in the World, or at least in this country. Colleges make millions of dollars from these players, but don't let them make any money at all in the name of "integrity". That's BS. Meanwhile, these athletes not only risk career ending injuries, but quality of life altering injuries as well. What kind of money do they get if they blow out a knee, wreck their shoulder, or break their neck? Nothing compared to being in the NFL, NBA, MLB, or NHL. I hope EA and the NCAA have to cough up millions to these athletes. For those of you that don't agree, don't you think that if somebody uses your likeness to make money, then you should be compensated too? Especially if that organization doesn't hold itself to the same standards they hold you to? This has nothing to do with if this guy was good enough or not to play in the NFL. The NCAA takes advantage of every athlete. It is far dirtier than professional sports. I am against frivolous lawsuits, but this is definitely not one of them. This guy is going to win easily.

Carpe_Noctum
Carpe_Noctum

It's funny, I always thought it was shiesty that the players in the NCAA games were so close to the real players. I understand why so many of you are upset but, the guy has a case. The players in the game should have never been so close to the real players. At any rate, who cares, I'll still play the game and life goes on.

Aggie1295
Aggie1295

I find it interesting, though not surprising, that the suit is filed by a no-name bench warmer who obviously switched schools because he couldn't get playing time at his first school. I doubt Sam Keller is represented in any of the games because it would be a waste of time for EA to go that detailed for every player. I have no problem with athletes, either college or pro, getting paid for royalties they are due, but this is just an old fashioned shake down.

myloman44
myloman44

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

stziggy
stziggy

The NCAA is a joke. It's a front to make college sports look honest and wholesome. The truth is that it's just as dirty as the business of professional sports. Why do they just stop pretending? We're not stupid.

Xions-Fursy
Xions-Fursy

Anyway to try to get money I guess... I hate the NCAA, do many stupid rules and so stuck up in themselves to see anything else but profit. I don't understand why a player would dislike his 'likeness' being in a video game. The more exposure you get the more your jerseys will sell, the more your name will be out there... It's better for you, unless of course you can't live up to it...

deepen03
deepen03

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

slammedc
slammedc

I agree with most of the comments below on how this is a ridiculous situation and one that shouldn't have been brought to the table. The fact of the matter is that he will probably end up winning and get some huge settlement that will be split among him and his lawyers along with whoever else gets to jump in on the lawsuit. By the time they're done paying the settlement I wouldn't be surprised that the people they split it amongst will only get a couple thousand each and it will just make them feel stupid for bringing it up in the first place. Not like it will hurt EA's wallet too much anyway, but it will probably change college sports games forever.

DKHardee
DKHardee

Congrats Sam, your an idiot. You have nothing better to do than complain about a video game (which im sure your whole life you were hoping you would be on someday) that you are on and didn't get paid for it. I'll bet a months pay that you would have never filed a suit if you were good enough to play in the NFL (which you were not) and get paid.

sykonfc
sykonfc

Some of you need to learn how to read. "NCAA bylaw 12.5 "specifically prohibits the commercial licensing of an NCAA athlete's 'name, picture, or likeness,'" and that all Division 1 NCAA student athletes must sign a contract acknowledging the rule to be eligible to compete." Seems he has a case and, he is suing the NCAA. Good grief.

Gatorelk
Gatorelk

this is rediculous. some washed up college player wants to make some extra cash so he and his pathetic lawyers try to conjure up this stupid lawsuit to get easy money. hopefully some lousy judge wont agree with them.

Pablo620
Pablo620

This is stupid. I dont really care about college video games but they are essentially ending production of college games. The US government wont let it happen. College sports games makes lots of money and help the economy

ThaGrateOne
ThaGrateOne

That's cute. I would like EA to lose rights over this and let another company compete with this 1 sided market........ NO ... wait what market EA BOUGHT IT.

tommyboy316
tommyboy316

That court case won was against the NFLPA, not EA.........stemming from the NFLPA's failure to keep the retired players' interests at heart in negotiating royalty rates for the use of the players' names and likenesses. Currently the players sign away any financial interest when they sign their agreement with the NCAA. It's not a big difference between selling jersey's and selling a video game, just more players involved. So AGAIN, if they go after EA then they should be going after NIKE/ ADDIDAS/ REEBOK,

favre4thewin
favre4thewin

Most of the people are missing the point of the suit. Its a likeness issue based on a similar ruling that won a court case. Its hard to argue against the NCAA and the cable TV channel making millions off of the final 4. Yeah, they can get a degree if they get through school, but why not give the buys that fuel the games and the TV shows some love. Not all of them become superstars and a $2,000 stipend (students can get that for work in Biology or Chemistry) could do a lot for someone that doesn't have money. As far as money funding other programs, not every college sport is fully funded (scholarship and equipment). Schools spend money on non-revenue sports because the NCAA makes them. Anyway, the big money is made from the TV contracts. Complain all you want, I see this case as hard to win for EA since that last ruling.

tommyboy316
tommyboy316

1.) Keller is a jacka$$, thanks Sammy- you tool! 2.) EA will still produce a NCAA game, but editing rosters will be a complete b!tc#- if we even get that option. Anybody remember a game called Bill Walsh College Football (no license- just cities or states), same concept but make it FULLY editable and Sammy (and his law suit) can bite it! 3.) If they're gonna go after EA and the game, then they have to go after Reebok/ Nike and jersey sales too!!! No one at Nebraska buys a #7 jersey because they think it's lucky- It's Hiesman winner Eric Crouch's # 4.) I'm sick of hearing about how these schools make millions and all these kids get is an education! These schools spend millions too, that football money supports non-profitable sports that fund scholarships for other athletes too. And JUST an education? I pray to God that my kids get full rides- room, tuition, training table food. That will save me a second mortgage!!! And so what if their "like-ness" is used in the game? It's they're frickin' LIKE-NESS!!! Small price to pay for a FREE Degree, hell they might even get edited OUT of the game by one of the roster makers. 5.) Stupid friggin' law suit by a cry baby punk QB who needs to find a new way to support his habit.

pablo091377
pablo091377

The real crime is that tax payer money was spent to teach some of you English and Grammar.