Sport video games, such as the NCAA basketball and football games, are a popular segment of the video game industry and often showcase collegiate teams’ colors, logos and other branding features.
But complications may arise when these video games feature virtual athletes with physical attributes and abilities that mirror those of real student-athletes.
Beth Cianfrone, assistant professor in the College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology and Health, focused on this subject in an article that was recently judged one of the best law review articles published within the last year in the fields of entertainment, publishing and the arts.
Cianfrone collaborated with Thomas Baker III, assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Georgia, in writing the article, which uses an ongoing lawsuit to highlight the potential issues that come with using student-athlete likenesses in sport video games.
At the root of this research lies the right of publicity, which allows individuals – particularly public figures and celebrities – to control the commercial value and exploitation of their name or likeness.
“Student-athletes have a right to protect the use of their likenesses for profit by others,” Cianfrone said. “The argument is whether video game athletes’ characteristics as a whole actually represent the individual student-athletes, or if they are just fictional representations of generic athletes.”
The article also may have an impact on the future use of student-athlete likenesses in collegiate sports video games and its legal implications.
“From a sport management perspective, the NCAA will have to assess their relationship with EA Sports and find a balance between the financial benefits of the video games with the protection of student-athletes and their amateur status,” Cianfrone said.
As one of the best law review articles published within the last year, the article will be included in the 2010 edition of Entertainment, Publishing and the Arts Handbook. The handbook, published annually by Thomson Reuters (West), provides information on the latest regulations, legislation and case law affecting the entertainment and publishing industries and the arts.
For more information on the Entertainment, Publishing and the Arts Handbook, visit http://west.thomson.com.