Law of the Game on Joystiq: The Madden Suit

Each week Mark Methenitis contributes law of the game on Joystiq, a column on legal issues as they relate to video games:

Summer is typically a "low season" for game releases, except for one particular annual tradition: new football games. As of late, those games have been all from EA, most notably the Madden and NCAA franchises. Last week it was made public that two gamers brought suit to disrupt EA's stranglehold over the football game market. Since the pleadings are online, I thought I would take the opportunity to offer some commentary on the issues presented. Of course, these are just my thoughts on the matter, not a prediction as to what result a trial may bring. EA's actual response may vary.

Professional sports are no strangers to antitrust and other anti-competition based legal actions. More or less every major professional sports league has faced these suits in the past, and some of them even hold specific anti-trust exemptions. For example, the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 is a specific anti-trust exemption for the NFL to be able to negotiate the broadcast rights for all teams. While none of the leagues have a true monopoly over the sports they represent, the barriers to entry are fairly great and most leagues are ultimately unable to compete (need I remind you of the XFL?). From the perspective of the NFL or MLB, exclusive licenses are likely viewed the way TV rights are, and I'm somewhat surprised that exclusivity has only become an issue in recent years.

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