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NFL players target Madden in EA lawsuit

Madden NFL from EA is the target of a lawsuit by retired NFL players who believe they were not paid for their inclusion in previous versions of the game.

Electronic Arts

A former football player is suing Electronic Arts on behalf of about 6,000 retired National Football League players who claim their likenesses were included in Madden NFL 09, but they weren't paid for it.

The complaint (PDF), filed in U.S. District Court in Northern California, claims that EA engaged in "the unlawful use of retired NFL players' likenesses in video games created, marketed, and sold by EA." The plaintiffs said EA did not obtain "prior authorization and permission" and that by not doing so, was "unjustly enriched."

Attorneys for Michael E. Davis, aka Tony Davis, filed the court document seeking class action status last week. The news was first reported by IGN.

The crux of the lawsuit revolves around the more than 140 "historic teams" included in the game. The players on those in-game teams have no names and do not share the same jersey numbers as their real-life counterparts. That said, the plaintiffs claim that characteristics, "including the players' height, weight, and skill level, were consistently identical or so close to the living player's characteristics that the consumers of the game could readily discern what player was being represented."

The retired players say that EA designed the game and the historic teams to ensure "consumers of the Madden NFL video game franchise will have no difficulty identifying who the 'historic' players are."

EA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This isn't the first time retired players have targeted video games. In 2008, retired football players were awarded $28 million in a lawsuit against the NFL Players Union after claiming the organization didn't pay them their share of the royalties the players' union received from Madden NFL, among several other football-related products.

The plaintiffs are asking the court for actual, statutory, and punitive damages, as well as all profits related to the retired players' likenesses.