EA and NCAA Being Sued for Using Player Likenesses in Video Games

Tony ArnoldineCorrespondent IMay 10, 2009

LEIPZIG, GERMANY - AUGUST 24:  Fair goers  test Playstation at the computer games fair Games Convention 24 August, 2007 in Leipzig, Germany. Organisers of Europe's largest show for interactive entertainment expect 200,000 visitors during the event taking place to 26 August.  (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

College sports games don't feature the names of players but other than that, the players are exact replicas of their real-life counterparts. That's what former Arizona State and Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller is contending in a class-action lawsuit against EA Sports and the NCAA.

From CNBC's Darren Rovell:

Keller says that the NCAA and its licensing arm, Collegiate Licensing Company, have approved the use of players names and likenesses.

"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, although this last characteristic can be highly variable over even a single season."

Keller then introduces GameRosters.com, which I have known about for years. The company has files of each school's roster, which can be uploaded into the game.

"Once uploaded," the suit says, "the default jerseys in the game that contain only players' numbers are replaced with jerseys that contain both the player's actual name and actual number and in-game announcers then refer to players by their real names."

Keller is exactly right here and I'm surprised it has taken this long for someone to come forward to try and stop it. Obviously the big stars of the NCAA that make it in the NFL won't say anything because they are rich, but Keller needs money and attention, since he didn't really do much in college.

Besides, if there is no intent by EA to capture the players' likenesses, as they say, then why do the announcers say the names of each player once you've uploaded them?

I'm sure EA could make the case that it's so that people at home can create themselves, but are there that many people buying the game with last names like Reynaud and Heyward-Bey?