Jim Brown suit over Madden NFL dismissed

Judge sacks retired running back's complaint, calls EA football games "expressive works" protected by First Amendment.


Legendary Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown was an unstoppable force on the field. However, the courtroom has proven less kind to the NFL Hall of Famer and star of such action films as The Dirty Dozen and Three the Hard Way. According to the New York Times, the lawsuit Brown filed against Electronic Arts last year was dismissed last week by a federal judge.

In shutting down Jim Brown, EA managed something few NFL defenses could ever dream of doing.
In shutting down Jim Brown, EA managed something few NFL defenses could ever dream of doing.

Brown had been alleging that Electronic Arts was illegally profiting from his likeness and identity due to the publisher's inclusion of a physically and statistically similar running back on its "All Browns Team" of Cleveland football greats. According to the Times, United States District Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper tossed the suit, citing a First Amendment right on EA's behalf to have characters resemble celebrities.

"The Madden NFL video games are expressive works, akin to an expressive painting that depicts celebrity athletes of past and present in a realistic sporting environment," the judge wrote.

While that decision puts the Brown suit behind EA, the publisher's legal battles over likenesses in its sports games are by no means over. Earlier this year, former Arizona State and University of Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller sued EA and its collegiate partners over depictions of student athletes in NCAA Football games. The Times report states that earlier this week, Brown and fellow retired NFL player Herb Adderley asked permission to weigh in with a friend-of-the-court brief in Keller's case.

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