Electronic Arts Reaches Proposed Settlement with Student Athletes

On Thursday, attorneys representing student athletes who claim Electronic Arts (EA) illegally used student-athletes’ likenesses in the company’s popular NCAA Football video games confirmed they have reached a proposed settlement.

The settlement covers claims made in cases by former players Sam Keller and Ed O’Bannon against EA, along with cases by former players Shawne Alston and Ryan Hart, but must be approved by the court. The amount and other terms are confidential pending a court filing.

EA and attorneys for the student-athletes reached the settlement after the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the proposed class-action lawsuit in an attempt by EA to dismiss the case. The ruling remanded the case to U.S. District Court, allowing attorneys for the plaintiffs to seek class certification. The settlement with EA will allow attorneys to focus on claims against the NCAA, which has not settled.

The cases drew national attention because the case revolved, in part, on whether EA’s video games and representations of the player-athletes were protected under the First Amendment as artistic impression.

In the ruling by the Ninth Circuit, Judge Jay Bybee—writing for the majority—said that EA’s use of Keller’s image, “does not qualify for First Amendment protection as a matter of law because it literally recreates Keller in the very setting in which he has achieved renown.”

Judge Claudia Wilken in the U.S. District Court for Northern California must grant preliminary approval of the settlement before ultimately approving the deal.

On July 17, the NCAA announced it would not renew its licensing agreement with EA, citing legal concerns. EA announced that it would not produce its college football game next year.