Hagens Berman filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of NCAA student-athletes whose photographs were marketed and sold online without their permission and without compensation, in violation of NCAA rules.
The suit, filed in 2014 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, states, “When a media company claiming to be the NCAA’s ‘exclusive agent’ uploads tens of thousands of photographs of NCAA student-athletes to public websites and, without appropriate authorization, uses those images and the names of the athletes to promote direct sales of the images, the media company violates the student-athletes’ rights of publicity and is subject to monetary, statutory, and injunctive relief.”
The district court dismissed the case in 2015, making an unprecedented ruling that the holder of a federal copyright is immune from right-of-publicity claims relating to the marketing and sale of merchandise featuring a person’s likeness.
Hagens Berman appealed this ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. An amicus brief in support of the student-athletes has been filed by five major professional sports players’ associations representing players in the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, and Major League Soccer. The appeal is pending.
The suit seeks to represent a proposed class of NCAA student-athletes whose photographs were marketed and sold online by T3Media.