Ed O’Bannon to receive $15K in Electronic Arts settlement

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The very high profile Ed O’Bannon case against video game maker Electronic Arts was officially settled out of court today.

O’Bannon, the suit’s main plaintiff, will receive $15,000 while the former college basketball and college football players, whose likenesses appeared in the game dating back to 2003, will be awarded $40,000,000 as a whole.

The settlement is with Electronic Arts and Collegiate Licensing Co., which licenses and markets college sports, and does not include the NCAA. Last fall, Electronic Arts Inc. (EA), the second-largest U.S. video-game publisher, agreed to settle the suit. Today, we learned for how much.

Ed O’Bannon and company claim the NCAA conspired with EA to sell the images and likenesses of former college athletes in violation of antitrust laws.

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U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken still must approve the proposed settlement, according to the Associated Press, which comes on the eve of a major antitrust trial against the NCAA (now the lone defendant) that could reshape the way college sports operate. That case, featuring the former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon and others as lead plaintiffs, goes to trial June 9 in Oakland, California.

“My likeness was being used…in any other walk of life, I would have a share in that profit,” Ed O’Bannon has said publicly. “If someone uses your likeness, then you should be compensated for it.”

EA canceled next year’s college football product, citing unsettled litigation between the plaintiffs and the NCAA, whose chief legal officer, Donald Remy, said on Sept. 26 the organization would take the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court rather than settle, according to USA Today.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs say it would be the first time college athletes will be paid for the commercial use of their images.
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Public opinion seems to be shifting against the NCAA and in favor of the players with tremendous momentum. Even an Athletic Director of a major NCAA program sided with the players. Then Marquette University AD Larry Williams told the Associated Press this past fall that he’s on the same page as former Nebraska Cornhuskers QB Sam Keller and O’Bannon.

“I do not think the NCAA should be trading on the image or likeness of any players,” Williams said. “If we’re requiring amateurism on one side, we should not be individually commercializing their image and likeness.”

Williams was fired soon after making this statement; making it even more brave.

Paul M. Banks owns The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. He’s also a frequent guest on national talk radio. Banks, a former contributor to NBC Chicago and the Washington Times, has been featured in numerous outlets including NFL.com, Forbes and the History Channel. President Barack Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)

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