NCAA Agrees to $20 Million Settlement in Video Game Likeness Case
SEATTLE – Hagens Berman attorneys representing student-athletes who claim that the NCAA illegally used student-athletes’ names, images and likenesses in Electronic Arts’ (NASDAQ:EA) popular NCAA Football, Basketball and March Madness video game series today announced they have reached a preliminary settlement with the NCAA that would add $20 million to the $40 million settlement reached recently with Electronic Arts (EA).
This is the first time the NCAA has agreed to a settlement that pays student-athletes for acts related to their participation in athletics.
According to Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and lead attorney in the Keller v. NCAA, et al.litigation, the settlement is significant not only for its contribution to the student-athlete settlement fund, but for the precedent it sets. The Keller case was scheduled for trial in March 2015 in federal court in California.
“This is the first time in the history of the NCAA that the organization is paying student-athletes for rights related to their play on the field, compensating them for their contribution to the profit-making nature of college sports,” Berman said. “We’ve long held through our various cases against the NCAA that the student-athlete is treated poorly in everything from scholarships to safety. This settlement is a step toward equity and fairness for them.”
The settlements cover claims made in the Keller and O’Bannon cases against EA along with the Alston and Hart cases. Added to the earlier $40 million EA settlement, each student-athlete class member could now receive more than $1,000 for each year they appeared in the EA video games, even more depending on the response and claim rates for the class.
“We began this case five years ago with the knowledge that the NCAA and member schools were resolute in keeping as much control over student-athletes as possible,” Berman added. “But we were equally resolute that anyone – even a student-athlete playing under scholarship – should not be exploited for profit, especially by the organization that vowed to prevent the athlete from exploitation.”
This NCAA settlement benefits current and former student-athletes who competed on an NCAA Division I college or university men’s basketball team or on an NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision men’s football team, and whose images, likenesses or names were included in game footage or in EA video games after 2005. The earlier settlement covers student-athletes back to 2003, even if they were not in the video games.
The cases drew national attention because they revolved, in part, on whether EA’s video games and representations of the student-athletes were protected under the First Amendment as artistic expression.
Judge Claudia Wilken in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California must grant preliminary approval of the settlement before ultimately approving the deal. The District Court and Ninth Circuit rule in favor of the student-athletes.
More information, including case documents, is available at www.hbsslaw.com/cases/ncaa---video-games.
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About Hagens Berman
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with offices in nine cities. The firm has been named to the National Law Journal’s Plaintiffs’ Hot List seven times. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.