EA Sports Could Be Liable For Misappropriation of Former Rutgers' Quarterback's Likness.

In Hart v Electronic Arts Inc., former Rutgers’ quarterback Ryan Hart brought an action against Electronic Arts alleging that it misused his likeness in creating the quarterback for Rutgers’ University in its popular NCAA Football video game (2006 version).  In the game, the Rutgers’ quarterback mirrored Hart, the game listed the quarterback as number 13, 6 foot 2,  and used Hart’s hometown and class year.  The game’s rendition of the player also mirrored Hart.

Hart brought the action in Federal District Court.  The Federal District Court dismissed the lawsuit on first amendment grounds.  The third circuit overturned the dismissal stating that the game did not sufficiently transform Hart’s identity to escape the right of publicity claim.  This ruling could pose problems for the successful game series, people purchase the game because the players resemble in skill and description the players on actual NCAA teams.  However, if the Court determines that it is a misappropriation of likeness and that the players are entitled to compensation, it posses a problem for the players’ NCAA status.

Under NCAA rules a college player cannot receive compensation any form in that sport or accepts any remuneration or permits the use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind.  To do so will cause that player to lose his/her ametuer status, thus his/her ability to participate in NCAA sports.