Electronic Arts Must Face Ex-Athletes’ Antitrust Claims

Electronic Arts Inc., the second-largest U.S.-video game publisher, must face antitrust claims that it conspired with the National Collegiate Athletic Association to deprive student athletes of payments for use of their images in video games, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland, California, said today Electronic Arts must respond within 14 days to claims in a lawsuit filed on behalf of former NCAA athletes that the company and the association colluded to allow third parties to create modifications to NCAA-themed basketball and football video games allowing users to upload their names, height, weight and appearances without compensation.

Wilken said the ex-players have made “significant” new allegations that EA agreed to not offer payment to athletes once they left their college sports careers, in addition to NCAA’s rule prohibiting compensation of current student athletes.

“It suggests that EA was actively participating to ensure that former student-athletes would not receive any compensation for the use of their images, likenesses and names,” Wilken said.

Jeff Brown, a spokesman for Redwood City, California-based EA, didn’t immediately return a voice-mail message seeking comment about the ruling.

The case is In Re NCAA Student-Athlete Name and Likeness Licensing Litigation, 09-1967, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (Oakland).

To contact the reporters on this story: Karen Gullo in San Francisco at kgullo@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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