EA Sports Settles College Athlete Likeness Cases

NEW YORK - Video game-maker Electronic Arts and the Collegiate Licensing Company have settled all lawsuits brought against the companies by former and current college athletes over the unauthorized use of the players' images and likenesses in video games and other merchandise.

The NCAA is not part of the settlements, which includes the O'Bannon case. Brought by former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon, that lawsuit was asking for the NCAA, EA and CLC to share billions of dollars in revenues with college athletes.

The settlement was submitted for approval to the U.S. District Court in Northern California and the terms were confidential.

Earlier Thursday, EA Sports announced it wouldn't make a college football video game next year because of the ongoing legal issues.

The video game publisher had initially vowed to maintain the franchise after the NCAA decided in July to ends its contract to lend its logo to the game. But since then, several college conferences have followed the NCAA's lead, and a federal appeals court ruled that Electronic Arts Inc. must face legal claims by players that it unfairly used their images without compensation.

Cam Weber, the company's vice president for football, said in a statement on the EA Sports website Thursday that "the ongoing legal issues combined with increased questions surrounding schools and conferences have left us in a difficult position."

Weber adds that the Redwood City, Calif., company is "evaluating our plan for the future of the franchise."

EA Sports began making an NCAA Football game in 1998. The company's Madden football franchise, however, is more popular.

Weber likened EA's use of athletes' images in its games to "companies that broadcast college games and those that provide equipment and apparel."

July's appeals court ruling said that EA can't invoke the 1st Amendment to shield itself from the players' lawsuit. EA had claimed that its games were works of art that deserve freedom-of-expression protection. But the court disagreed, ruling that the characters used in the games were exact replicas of individual players.

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