A U.S. district judge has approved a settlement worth $60 million which the NCAA and Electronic Arts will pay to college athletes for the use of their image. The settlement is the result of 2009 lawsuit filed by a former college athlete who opposed the unrestricted use of his likeness in an Electronic Arts NCAA game, prompting a common stand on the issue from former and actual college stars.
The settlement was approved by U.S. district judge Claudia Wilken on Thursday, after years of criticism towards NCAA’s unpaid use and lending of athlete’s images. Claimant lawyer Steve Berman has declared himself and his clients pleased with the outcome.
The official complaint was that NCAA and Electronic Arts were using the likeness, name and image of college football and basketball players illegally over the years in the former’s NCAA video game series, released on annual basis, as the athletes were not receiving any form of compensation in exchange for this. The NCAA series were discontinued in 2013 due to the pending related lawsuits.
Following the settlement, former and actual college athletes can lay claim to part of the settlement until July 31st; the original deadline was July 2nd, which had to be postponed due to the high amount of claims filed, reportedly numbering more than 20,000 by that date. Individuals may claim up to $7,000 in compensation, which may start being distributed as early as September, depending on how fast case appeals are going to be resolved.
The NCAA Football series had more than 20 iterations starting from 1993, with the last title being released in 2013 under the name NCAA Football 2014. During the series, the games never displayed exact player names as that was against NCAA policy, but matched number, height, weight, position and other variables so as to make the unnamed players as recognizable as possible.
Users were also let to edit the rosters and match them to their real life counterpart, while in the case of the NCAA Basketball series, which ran between 1998 and 2009, real player names were added to the in-game commentary.
In a larger case which challenges the entire way in which NCAA uses college athletes image, the association has filed a stay for an injunction in the Ed O’Bannon case which would see current college football or basketball players receive up $5,000 per year as compensation for the use of their image in commercial purposes.
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