NFL players unreasonable in suing EA

December 7, 2010 — by Paul Jung and Stanley Yip

If football is one of America’s favorite pastimes, then filing lawsuits must be another. In the third episode in three years, a group of about 6,000 retired NFL players have recently filed a lawsuit against video game giant Electronic Arts (EA). The ill-conceived lawsuit states that EA unlawfully used the players’ likeness without paying licensing fees for using their image in their Madden NFL games.

A similar lawsuit was filed against the National Football League Players’ Association (NFLPA) in 2008, which resulted in $26.25 million awarded to the 2,062 plaintiffs. In 2009, another group threatened to sue EA but did not follow through.

This year, however, a new feature has been added to the Madden series. In Madden NFL 09, more than 140 historic teams were added. The players on these teams have suspiciously identical stats, including height, weight and even movement, as retired professional athletes. The only real difference is a scrambled jersey number and a blank name.

Another suspicious and clearly hot issue these athletes have with EA is the games’ option to edit the jersey numbers and names of the historic team members. If someone recognizes a player’s stats in the game, a few simple pushes of a button can add a matching name and number to recreate the exact historic player again.

However, it is unreasonable and absurd to think that such a case is enough cause for a lawsuit. These retired NFL players should appreciate the fact that they are still remembered and recognized as unforgettable players in a major title football video game.

If this lawsuit swings in favor of the retired players, then it would put stricter limitations and restrictions on all media in the future. Many forms of media today use peoples’ likenesses regularly without getting approval or giving names. It would be impossible to get consent from every single person who’s face is shown in the media, whether it be commercial or not. If EA is not allowed to use people’s images in Madden, then all future forms of media will be bound to follow the same path and be very limited on what they will be able to produce.

If EA loses, games and other forms of media will no longer be able to create media freely without concern about being sued. There have always been characters in video games and other media that have been based on real people, and this will no longer be possible if this lawsuit succeeds. As long as EA’s profits do not solely depend on a player’s image, it is OK for them to include people’s images in video games.

The entire lawsuit seems as if 6,000 NFL players have simply run out of retirement money.

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