EA Must Face Madden NFL Lawsuit From Retired Players

Judge rules that lawsuit can move forward; EA says it's disappointed by the decision, but plans to fight.

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A federal appeals court judge ruled this week that a lawsuit from a group of retired NFL players over EA's juggernaut Madden football series can move forward. EA sought to have the case, which has to do with the depiction of former players in the series, tossed out, but the judge rejected this.

From The Associated Press: "The 9th Circuit said EA was not likely to prevail on its argument that its use of the former players' likenesses was incidental and therefore protected by the First Amendment."

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Judge Raymond Fisher explained his decision thusly: "We hold EA's use of the former players' likenesses is not incidental because it is central to EA's main commercial purpose--to create a realistic virtual simulation of football games involving current and former NFL teams."

One of the players involved in the lawsuit, former Los Angeles Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo, claimed that the Madden NFL series featured the exact likenesses, including characteristics, of retired players. However, Ferragamo claims EA did not obtain permission for their use.

EA said it was disappointed by the court's ruling, explaining that it plans to fight the suit.

"We believe in the First Amendment right to create expressive works--in any form--that relate to real-life people and events, and will seek further court review to protect it," EA said.

This case is similar to one from 2013, when a court ruled against EA in a suit brought forward by former Arizona State University QB Sam Keller concerning the NCAA Football series. He claimed that EA used college athletes' likenesses without compensating the players. EA ended up paying out $40 million to settle the case, and the NCAA Football series was put on hold.

As part of this week's Madden NFL ruling, Judge Fisher said: "Like NCAA Football, Madden NFL replicates players' physical characteristics and allows users to manipulate them in the performance of the same activity for which they are known in real life--playing football for an NFL team."

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