The $60 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought by college athletes against Electronic Arts will pay claimants an average of $1,600, according to a document filed in court yesterday.
The size of the settlement was set in June 2014 after the NCAA added $20 million to what EA and the NCAA's top licensing agent, the Collegiate Licensing Company, agreed to. The settlement resolves a case brought in 2008 by former UCLA basketball All-American Ed O'Bannon over EA Sports' practice of basing its college games' rosters on real-world performers without their permission.
The per-player payout is subject to a number of factors, notably how many people file for, and are awarded, claims. According to a March 14 court filing, 24,819 individuals were found to have valid claims. Lawyers are awarded 30 percent of the $60 million settlement, leaving the players to divide the remaining $40 million, which accounts for the $1,600 average payment.
Lawyers had said that as many as 200,000 players could have made valid claims, which would have significantly lowered the individual payments.
The amount each player actually receives will vary widely — under the settlement terms, as some ways in which their likenesses were used are considered more valuable than others. Also, appearances in earlier versions of the games are worth less than more recent appearances. Players are also compensated for each use, and some may have appeared in more games or in more years than others.
O'Bannon, who is currently a salesman and marketing officer for a car dealership in Las Vegas, will receive $15,000 as a lead plaintiff, along with former college quarterbacks Sam Keller and Ryan Hart, whose lawsuits against EA were consolidated into the O'Bannon case earlier this decade.
The payments should resolve one of the longest-running and most far-reaching civil lawsuits affecting not just video games but major sports in North America. O'Bannon's litigation led to the shelving of EA Sports' NCAA Football series in 2013 after a nearly 20-year run (EA's NCAA Basketball/March Madness franchise was canceled in 2009 for other reasons).
While this resolves the video games portion of the former athletes' litigation, there is still an ongoing lawsuit against the NCAA itself over the other means by which it and its members profit from college players' performances, mainly in the form of television broadcast rights. The larger case, in which both the NCAA and O'Bannon won key points in the appeal of a judge's ruling back in September, could still have enormous consequences for the major college sports model.