In yet another ruling concerning video games, the likenesses of notable athletes, and the NCAA, a California judge has rejected Electronic Art’s motion to dismiss a claim brought by former NCAA football player Sam Keller. It should be noted that this is not a final disposition on the case overall, but rather is an interim ruling that allows Keller’s case to move forward. It may, however, be a strong indicator of how the court will ultimately decide issues concerning liability and the defenses EA is likely to advance.
The lawsuit centers on the use by EA of Keller EA’s NCAA Football video game. In an effort to support its motion to dismiss, EA argued that its use of Keller’s likeness was not a violation because the use was transformative, and that the use was a matter in the public interest.
Lindsay Lohan has filed a lawsuit in New York against E*Trade, seeking $50 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages. She also seeks to have the advertisement pulled. The advertisement, which premiered during Super Bowl XLIV, involves an off-screen female voice asking the on-screen E*Trade baby through a video chat if “that milkaholic Lindsay” was over when he didn’t call her the night before, prompting another baby, Lindsay, to step into the camera and ask “milk-a what?”
The key analysis in most right of publicity claims centers around identifiability. The question then becomes, is Lindsay Lohan identifiable from the E*Trade use? I often add “unequivocally identifiable” to clarify the analysis. Lohan’s attorney has stated that Lohan is famous on a single-name basis, just like Oprah or Madonna. Whether that can be established may be up to the judge or jury if the parties don’t settle the claim first.
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