Electronic Arts, Inc. (“EA”) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”) have been sued by a former college football player who claims his and other athletes’ images are used in EA’s video games without authorization and in violation of NCAA rules, which forbid the commercial licensing of current NCAA athlete names, pictures or likenesses. Sam Keller, a former quarterback for Arizona State and Nebraska, filed a proposed class-action suit on May 5, 2009 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Keller claims that EA, the nation’s second-largest video-game publisher, seeks to “precisely replicate each school’s entire team” by populating the game with unnamed players that correspond to real student athletes (down to such details as jersey number, height, weight, build, skin tone, hair color, home state, class year and even playing style). EA then circumvents NCAA rules by allowing gamers to upload lists of real NCAA player names directly into its games to match up with the preloaded game characters. Keller further alleges that the NCAA sanctions these practices, including by allowing team equipment managers to complete questionnaires for EA on “idiosyncratic individual player details.” Keller seeks unspecified damages for the alleged violations of rights of publicity, and acts of unfair competition.