Image Rights vs. Free Speech in Video Game Suit

Image Rights vs. Free Speech in Video Game Suit

When Sam Keller, a former quarterback at Arizona State, sued the video game publisher Electronic Arts last year, he was seeking compensation for himself and other college athletes whose names were not used but whose images he contended were being illegally used by the company.

But to the media conglomerates, athletes, actors, First Amendment advocates and others who have recently weighed in on the case, Keller’s lawsuit is about much more than video games. The outcome of a recent appeal filed by Electronic Arts, their lawyers say, could rewrite the rules that dictate how much ownership public figures have over their images — and the extent to which outside parties, including media and entertainment companies — can profit from them.

The case is drawing attention because it gets to the heart of a highly contested legal question: when should a person’s right to control his image trump the free-speech rights of others to use it?

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