Jim Brown Is Really Pissed Off At EA Sports Now
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Jim Brown against Electronic Arts alleging that the company used his likeness in the Madden video game without his authorization and that they changed his number on the Cleveland All-Time team from No. 32 (which he wore) to No. 37 to avoid a lawsuit. The judge ruled that Electronic Arts was exercising its First Amendment rights when it used Brown in the video game.
From United States District Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper’s ruling:
“The Madden NFL video games are expressive works, akin to an expressive painting that depicts celebrity athletes of past and present in a realistic sporting environment,” Cooper wrote. She found that game users would not be likely to conclude that Brown had endorsed the Madden NFL product. But she left open the possibility for Brown to file a new lawsuit in California state court under a right-of-publicity claim.”
The ruling does not bode well for another lawsuit making its way through the courts. Former Nebraska football player Sam Keller sued Electronic Arts and the NCAA alleging that they were illegally profiting from his likeness.
Not surprisingly, each party had an opposing take on the ruling.
Jeff Brown, a spokesman for Electronic Arts, said, “We’re pleased with the decision and believe it is consistent with other rulings, which affirm video games are expressive works protected by the First Amendment.”
Brown and a fellow former NFL player requested that they be allowed to file a brief on behalf of Keller for his lawsuit.
Peter Parcher, one of the lawyers who filed the brief, dismissed the argument that Electronic Arts was protected by the First Amendment. “When you’re doing a venture strictly for commercial profit, that’s not the First Amendment,” he said. “That’s just taking a guy’s basic identity and using it to make a profit.”
Hey, when did stealing someone’s identity to make some money all of a sudden become illegal? Really? I suppose I should read something other than sports blogs every once in a while. But what fun would that be?
I understand that players get irritated about how EA and other video game companies make a profit off their likenesses, but why don’t they accept that they can’t make money off everything that has to do with them? In fact, they should take it as a complement and consider it another way that their legacy is preserved and appreciated by future generations that may have never had an opportunity to see them play. I tell you this: if someone ever came out with a “Sports Blogger Cage Match” video game, I’d be honored to be included – and I would totally kick ass – at least I better, or whoever made the game is going to hear from me.
In any event, these cases, and others like it, are far too complex, certainly for someone like me, who is not a Constitutional lawyer or someone who really has any stake in these legal proceedings. There is one thing, however, of which I am completely certain: Electronic Arts is about to learn that you do not cross the legendary Jim Brown. He is an angry man – a spiteful man. A man that won’t take shit from no one. He’s a bad mother…
Wait. Am I talking about Jim Brown or Shaft? I get those two confused sometimes.
Retired N.F.L. Player Jim Brown Loses Lawsuit Against Video Game Publisher [The New York Times]
College Stars Sue Over Likenesses in Video Games [The New York Times]