By Ryan Velez
NFL legend Jim Brown has recently won his case against Electronic Arts for the alleged legal use of his likeness in the Madden NFL video games. The $600,000 settlement the video game company has agreed to pay could cause a major precedent in the legal stance towards athletes and their likenesses. According to Brown’s lawyers, EA offered the settlement shortly after it filed papers to appeal the court decision.
The lawsuit began in 2013, where the 80-year-old Georgia native said that he did not allow EA to use his likeness, but the company still proceeded to do so. He added that their usage included illegal profit from his image through the use of a physically and statistically similar player on their “All Browns Team.” This act, according to Brown and his legal team, was a violation of his right of publicity.
“I took a stand for all athletes and laid a framework for future plaintiffs with my great legal team,” the former Cleveland Browns running back said in a statement regarding the final judgment. “Hopefully, this is a step forward in getting companies like Electronic Arts to recognize the value that athletes have in selling their products.”
This doesn’t mark the only time that Brown has gone after EA legally regarding their usage of his likeness. He initially filed a lawsuit against them in 2008, but the suit was tossed the following year. In this case, the presiding judge said that EA was protected under its First Amendment rights to have characters resembling celebrities. He also sued EA in federal court, but a judge dropped the case.
Robert Carey, one of Brown’s attorneys, also made a statement announcing his happiness with the court’s judgment. “Big business should think twice before it turns players’ hard-won identities and achievements into merchandise without permission or compensation,” Carey said.
This case may be one part of a larger movement regarding athletes and the usage of their likenesses in video games. In March, a group of retired NFL players were allowed to continue their own, separate suit against EA for their use of their likenesses in the Madden NFL series, reports Reuters.