Cyberlaw: Of Athletes And Video Games


Can a video game company use an athlete’s likeness in a game without his or her permission? The answer is maybe.

The Ninth Circuit recently rejected Jim Brown’s Lanham Act Section 43 claim against Electronic Arts, Inc. (EA) for using his likeness in the Madden NFL video game series without permission. Brown v. Electronic Arts, Inc., 724 F. 3d 1235 (9th Cir. July 31, 2013). Brown, a Hall of Fame inductee, played for the Cleveland Browns from 1957 to 1965. In the Madden series, EA included a player with the likeness of Brown, clearly recognizable as the Hall of Famer although Brown’s name was not used and his jersey number was changed. While EA enters into licensing agreements with the NFL and the NFL Players Association for the use of names and likenesses of current players, former players are not covered by those agreements.

Originally Published in the Bulletin, the official monthly publication of the Bar Association of Erie County. - March 2014.

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Topics:  Athletes, Electronic Arts, First Amendment, Right of Publicity, Video Games

Published In: Art, Entertainment & Sports Updates, Civil Procedure Updates, Communications & Media Updates, Intellectual Property Updates, Personal Injury Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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