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NFL Retirees Sue Electronic Arts Over  Madden

NFL Retirees Sue Electronic Arts Over Madden

August 3, 2010 | By Kris Graft

August 3, 2010 | By Kris Graft
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More: Console/PC

A class consisting of over 6,000 retired NFL football players led by former pro running back Tony Davis is suing Electronic Arts over a "calculated and underhanded attempt" to avoid paying retired players royalties to use their likenesses in the Madden NFL franchise.

The multi-million selling sports series, the next installment of which is due later this month, has featured "historic teams" whose virtual players allegedly have strikingly similar physical attributes and positions to players who are now retired.

Davis, who played running back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1979-1981, said the 1979 version of him plays for the Buccaneers in Madden NFL 09, with identical heigh, position, weight and other stats. But instead of the number 27 -- Davis' number -- the in-game athlete wears a 37 on its Jersey. Users can freely edit jersey numbers and names, which do not match up with real-life historic players.

The case, filed last Thursday [hosted at IGN (PDF)], reads, "These are not unique examples. EA deliberately and systematically misappropriated the retired players' likenesses to increase the value of the Madden NFL video game at the expense of those players."

The suit added, "Notably, after this scheme came to light, EA discontinued its misappropriation of retired NFL players' likenesses in the 2010 edition of the Madden NFL video game."

This isn't the first time that EA has been associated with alleged misappropriation of retired NFL players' likenesses. In 2009, the NFL Players Association agreed to a $26 million settlement with a class of retirees who said the union didn't give retired players their share of the licensing fees to use NFL players in Madden games.

The class consists of around 6,000 retired players whose likenesses were included on Madden NFL's historic teams, in all versions of the game sold from July 29, 2008 to present.

The class excludes a "limited" amount of players whose alleged virtual versions have a height that is not within two inches of the player's roster height and weight not within 10 percent of a player's roster weight. EA employees are also not included in the class.

The class is suing for damages, disgorgement of all of EA's profits related to inclusion of retired players' likenesses and attorney's fees. The suit did not name a specific dollar amount being sought, but stated the controversy for the class exceeds $5 million.

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