Judge approves $60 million video games settlement

Friday July 17th, 2015

A judge granted approval a $60 million settlement of several class-action lawsuits relating to video game makers using the names, images and likenesses of college football and men's college basketball players.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken approved a $60 million payment to the players on Thursday and said that any student-athlete who wants in on the claim must file by July 31. Objectors to the settlement have 30 days to appeal once Wilken finalizes the approval.

“It's a landmark day,” an attorney for the plaintiffs, Steve Berman, said to USA Today. “It's the first time student-athletes will get paid for use of their name, image and likeness—and we’re anxious to get the settlement funds to the students.”

More than 20,000 claims were filed by the original July 2 deadline and some players will receive a maximum of $7,200, which can be handed out as early as September, depending on the pace of the appeals.

Berman says Wilken told the cases’ attorneys that she might reduce the costs and fees that they will be awarded to 30% of the settlement rather than 33%.

“She wants what we want: a fair payment for the attorneys, who took tremendous risks, and the best results for those athletes who make claims,” Rob Carey, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys said. “The claims rate is approaching 30% and that is a great response. The awards are sizable, and the athletes who were there—[Sam] Keller and [Shawne] Alston—are elated with the result and their roles in it.”

This week, a federal magistrate judge ordered the NCAA to pay $44.4 million in attorneys' fees and another $1.5 million in costs to lawyers for the plaintiffs in the class-action antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA involving former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon.

O'Bannon and 19 others sued the NCAA, claiming the organization violated United States antitrust laws by not allowing athletes to get a share of the revenues generated from the use of their images in broadcasts and video games.

In August, Wilken ruled that the NCAA cannot prevent athletes from selling the rights to their names, images and likenesses. NCAA rules prohibit any student-athletes from receiving money from the selling of their likenesses.

Electronic Arts, a video game company and the Collegiate Licensing Company, a trademark licensing and marketing firm, reached a $40 million settlement in June 2014 after being sued by former Arizona State and Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller, who accused the two entities of improperly using the likenesses of athletes on video games.

The judges in the case threw out the notion made by EA that the First Amendment protected its use of player likenesses in the college football video game that it had manufactured for over 20 years.

Those athletes still playing college sports can receive money from the settlement without any detriment to their eligibility.

- Scooby Axson

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