Wednesday, November 17, 2010

And Yet ANOTHER First Amendment Case

This one strictly courtesy of EA. Thanks once again EA. >.>

Sometime last year, former Arizona State quarterback Sam Keller sued EA for using a likeness of his and his friends images in their EA Sports college titles. Their names were not used in the game, due to NCAA  regulations that prevent college athletes from being involved in such projects and making a profit from them. However, it doesn't meant their some form of their likeness can't be up for grab. Now that Keller is an adult, he sued EA for using his likeness without his permission. Another football player in Rutgers sued last year as well for the same issue. With media conglomerates, PR firms, and actors all weighing in on this topic, it has grown into a bigger issue. It's not simply about video games using someone's image, but rather First Amendment freedom of speech.

EA recently appealed the case with their lawyers stating that the outcome could easily re-write the rules over how much ownership a public figure has over their image. Not just in video games, but in television, movies, news print. Even as far as Fashion Police on E!

This is the real question that this case is attempting to resolve: When should a person’s right to control his or her image trump the free-speech rights of others to use it?

It's a gray area for the Supreme Court. EA is claiming that the right to free speech includes using athlete's images. While Keller's side is claiming that the video games in question were created as a means of profit and should not be entitled to the same First Amendment protection. Who's backing EA? Well the MPAA, ESPN, and Viacom, the biggest of the biggest in movies and television. Though Keller has the Screen Actor's Guild, a series of players unions for professional sports on his side as individuals wanting more control over their image.

It's a topic begging for legal guidelines without infringing on First Amendment rights. If people are giving the ability to copyright their name and image, there would be a giant chunk of the entertainment industry kicked out of business. Think about tabloids, entertainment shows. Even that one show on CNN that talks about celebrities would have to be removed. Though I agree that EA is a money machine and makes products purely for profit (because isn't that what everyone does when they want to sell an item?), I'd have to side with them on this issue.

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