College notebook: Court rejects EA’s appeal to throw out lawsuit

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A divided U.S. federal appeals court rejected Electronic Arts Inc.’s effort to throw out a lawsuit by former college athletes who accused the company of using their images in video games without permission.

By a 2-1 vote, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said EA’s use of the athletes’ likenesses in its “NCAA Football” and “NCAA Basketball” games did not deserve protection as free expression under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Nine plaintiffs had claimed that EA used their identities and likenesses without compensation.

The decision upheld a ruling by a district judge in Oakland, Calif., and sets the stage for the plaintiffs to seek class-action status on behalf of other athletes.

EA Sports is also a defendant, along with the NCAA and Collegiate Licensing Company, in a suit brought by former and current college players — led by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon — over the use of their names, images and likenesses. The district judge in Oakland has yet to rule on class-action certification for that suit.

Football: Relaxed transfer rule for Penn State players ends

The NCAA rule connected to Penn State’s sanctions that had the earliest impact on the football program expires today, when the rule allowing Nittany Lions players to transfer without having to sit out a year elapses.

The ruling was part of sanctions against Penn State regarding the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal.

•  Blue-chip recruit Eddie Vanderdoes won his appeal to the NCAA and will be eligible to play this season for UCLA after first signing a national letter of intent with Notre Dame.

Vanderdoes, from Auburn, Calif., signed with Notre Dame in February but decided later he wanted to stay closer to home because of an ailing family member.

Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly declined to release the highly rated defensive tackle from his letter of intent.

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