A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that video game maker Electronic Arts must face legal claims by college players that it unfairly used their images without compensation.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Redwood City company can't invoke the 1st Amendment to shield it from the players' lawsuit.
The legal action was filed in 2009 by Sam Keller, a former San Ramon Valley High School quarterback who played for Arizona State before transferring to Nebraska. It argues for class-action status to represent all current and former players and has been combined with a similar lawsuit filed by former UCLA men's basketball star Ed O'Bannon against the NCAA.
EA said it plans to appeal the ruling. The company has claimed its college-based sports games were works of arts deserving freedom of expression protection.
The court disagreed, ruling the avatars used in the company's basketball and football games were exact replicas of individual players. The court concluded that the company did little to transform the avatars into works of art and said EA's "NCAA Football" game was too realistic to be considered a new art form.
Bybee rejected EA's contention that the game was akin to a newsgathering product that restates statistical, biographical and other publicly available information.