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Judge: NCAA's likeness compensation rules violate antitrust laws


U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled yesterday that NCAA rules prohibiting student athletes from receiving compensation for the use of their images, names and likenesses violates antitrust laws, CBS Sports reported. NCAA rules do not allow colleges to pay athletes when their images are used in a video game series such as EA Sports' NCAA Football games, and Wilken said those rules "unreasonably restrain trade."

Wilken is the same judge that ordered settlement talks between the NCAA and Ed O'Bannon in February, after EA agreed to settle its own likeness lawsuits with student athletes to the tune of $40 million in September 2013. EA canceled its next NCAA Football game at that time and began "evaluating [its] plan for the future of the franchise." The publisher later reported an additional $8 million in expected expenses as a result of the lawsuit settlement, which amounted to roughly $1,000 per athlete, per appearance in the games.

This week's decision by Wilken prohibits the NCAA from "enforcing any rules to prevent its member schools and conferences from offering to deposit a limited share of licensing revenue in trust for their FBS football and Division I basketball recruits, payable when they leave school or their eligibility expires." The injunction allows the NCAA to cap the trust fund at $5,000 for each year the college athlete is academically eligible to play, and students would be paid upon graduation or once their athletic eligibility expires.

Addtionally, Wilken will continue to allow the NCAA to enforce rules that prohibit student athletes from selling their names, images and likeness on an individual basis, and Wilken also did not provide support for changes to NCAA rules that would allow athletes to be compensated for endorsements. The ruling does not affect current athletes and those within the current recruiting cycle, however; college recruits that enroll before July 1, 2016 aren't included in the injunction. It is expected that the NCAA will appeal the ruling.

As for future college sports video games, while EA once reportedly requested college athlete likenesses in 2007 for the use in its video games, its relationship with the NCAA isn't a happy one. The NCAA opted out of its licensing agreements with EA in July 2013, then filed a lawsuit against EA and the Collegiate Licensing Company in November after EA settled with student athletes.

[Image: NCAA]

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