Former NCAA QB wins appeal, sets up First Amendment showdown with EA

ryan-hartFormer Rutgers quarterback Ryan Hart won his appeal in an ongoing lawsuit against EA Sports regarding the unauthorized use of his likeness in the NCAA Football series of games earlier this week, according to Kotaku. Hart’s victory comes after a Federal District Court judge dismissed his suit in 2011, ruling that EA has a First Amendment right to depict college football players.

Hart appealed the ruling to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, and the three-judge panel sided with the former quarterback in a 2-1 decision, ruling that “[t]he various digitized sights and sounds in the video game do not alter or transform the appelant’s identity in a significant way,” according to Judge Joseph Greenaway.

The legalities of depicting NCAA players in a for-profit manner are murky at best, and this case may help to create a new precedent. Former Nebraska and Arizona State quarterback Samuel Keller is at the Federal Appeal level in a different district with an identical complaint. Keller’s case was already combined with that of former UCLA player Ed O’Bannon, who seeks to make it a class action suit.

According to NCAA rules, a player cannot profit off of their athletic performance. Even the action of selling personal memorabilia is prohibited, as former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four of his teammates found out in 2010, leading to a five game suspension. 

While the players themselves are prohibited from receiving any compensation, the schools and other companies with license rights to NCAA football are not. Companies can sell the jerseys of any player they wish as long as that player’s name is not on the jersey, because that player would then be legally entitled to receive some of the revenue from that sale, a violation of NCAA rules. The same is true of EA Sports’ NCAA Football game series. NFL Players negotiate for fees through the Players Association, but the NCAA players cannot.  

Hart, who played for Rutgers from 2002-2005, claims that EA Sports used his likeness down to his actual football skills, his physical appearance, his stats, and even his background information. Hart’s lawyers claimed that EA essentially stole the likeness of Hart and other college football players for profit.

EA insists that the use of the players is done in such a way to create an “expressive transformation,” which would give them protection under the First Amendment. The arguments are not far removed from those EA is currently using in defense of its decision to no longer pay license fees to gun manufacturers in order to feature real weapons in games, as that too is protected under the First Amendment. 

The case will now be sent back to the District Court level for another hearing. If successful, these cases could have a significant impact both on the way the NCAA treats its players and on the future of college football video games.

Mobile

Apple and Qualcomm settle all disputes, reach six-year agreement on chips

Apple and Qualcomm have announced that they have settled all disputes between them around the world -- and not only that, but have also agreed to a six-year agreement for Qualcomm to supply Apple with chips.
Gaming

Did Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown fall victim to the Madden Curse?

Join us as we take a tour through the long-running history of the Madden Curse — and Tom Brady's recent accolades. We all know John Madden is a longtime NFL talent, but is he also an agent of dark forces?
Deals

The Dell G5587 gaming laptop is on sale for one of the lowest prices we’ve seen

Even diehard desktop PC gamers have to admit that gaming laptops have come a long way in recent years, and the beefy Dell G5587 – now on sale from Walmart for $300 off – is a solid sub-$1,000 machine for work and play.
Emerging Tech

After failed lunar landing, SpaceIL bounces back with Beresheet 2.0

The SpaceIL project suffered a sad ending when the Beresheet craft crashed into the moon's surface this week, rendering it inoperable. But the plucky Israeli team is not giving up, and they have announced their plans for Beresheet 2.0.
Deals

Ditch the discs: The Xbox One S All-Digital Edition is available for pre-order

Like it or not, discs seem to be going the way of the VHS tape. Digital gaming is quickly becoming the new norm even for consoles, and Microsoft’s new Xbox One S All-Digital Edition is now available for pre-order with three free games…
Gaming

The Last of Us Part 2 finishes capturing its main characters’ performances

Calling it the most "ambitious cinematic shoot" the team has ever done, Naughty Dog revealed that the motion-capture performances for the main characters in The Last of Us Part II are finished.
Deals

Amazon sale knocks 20% off Nintendo Switch, Pro Controller, and games

A new wave of savings on gaming content is crashing down in celebration of Earth Day. Amazon is slashing prices up to 20% off for used Nintendo Switch consoles, games, and accessories like the Switch Pro Controller.
Gaming

Transform into the ultimate leader with our tips and tricks for Civilization 6

Civilization VI offers both series veterans and total newcomers a lot to chew on from the get-go. Here are some essential starting tips to help you master the game's many intricacies.
Gaming

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in Destiny 2: Forsaken

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.
Gaming

World of Warcraft's allied races will make you want to start a new character

The Horde and Alliance are seeking new allies in their struggle for control of Azeroth. Whether you pledge your allegiance to the Horde or Alliance, we have a guide to help you unlock every allied race in Battle for Azeroth.
Gaming

Wired headphones are so 2018. Here's how to pair a Bluetooth device to your PS4

One of the best aspects of modern consoles is how easily you can pair them with other devices. Here's our quick primer on how to connect a Bluetooth headset (or really any Bluetooth device) to your PlayStation 4.
Gaming

Here are the best games to play with your friends on the Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch's hybrid design adds convenience to your gaming time, allowing you to play Switch games both at home and on the go. The design also benefits multiplayer experiences, from co-op to competitive and online to offline.
Gaming

Get Nindie with it and check out these awesome indie games for the Switch

The Nintendo Switch's portability makes indies feel at home on the platform. Luckily, there are plenty of great titles to choose from. Here are our picks for the best Nintendo Switch indie games.
Gaming

Epic Games bans more than 1,000 cheaters in 1st week of Fortnite World Cup

Epic Games has already banned more than 1,000 cheaters in the Fortnite World Cup. The developer is taking cheating seriously, especially as players are competing for a $1 million prize pool in every week of the qualifiers.