EA Settles Suit Over College Athletes' Images
SAN FRANCISCO — Four years after a class of college athletes sued over the use of their images without compensation, video game giant Electronic Arts Inc. and the Collegiate License Company have settled with plaintiffs, according to court records.
That leaves the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or the NCAA, as the lone remaining defendant in the antitrust class action brought by about 100,000 former and current college athletes.
On Friday afternoon, a new team of lawyers from Munger Tolles & Olson stepped in to represent the NCAA, including San Francisco litigation partners Kelly Klaus, Carolyn Luedtke and Rohit Singla and Los Angeles partner Glenn Pomerantz.
According to media reports on Friday, EA and the Collegiate Licensing Company agreed to pay roughly $40 million to resolve the case. The settlement was first disclosed in a bare bones court filing Thursday.
Citing "ongoing legal issues" and the withdrawal of support from the NCAA, EA announced Thursday it would halt production of its NCAA-themed football game for next year.
EA's lawyers at Keker & Van Nest could not be reached for comment. Attorneys from Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton represented the Atlanta-based Collegiate License Company, which handles licensing for the NCAA.
Payments to the large class of athletes will vary based on "each class members' situation," said Robert Carey of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, attorney for ex-Arizona State University quarterback Samuel Keller. "It allows us to focus our energies on the NCAA," he said. Carey declined to discuss details of the confidential settlement.
Rocky Unruh of Schiff Hardin, an attorney for the NCAA, did not respond to an interview request on Friday.
Keller's suit, which was filed in 2009, was consolidated with an action filed by UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon. Both suits accuse the NCAA of violating its contractual obligations to college players when it sold to EA and the Collegiate Licensing Company the rights to use players' names and likenesses.
In 2010, U.S. District Chief Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland, Calif., refused to dismiss the consolidated case, finding EA's use of athletes' identities — their names, height, weight, skin tone, home state and facial features, among other characteristics — was not protected by the First Amendment. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed 2-1 in July.