Ibrahimovic vs. EA Sports

Updated: Jan 27

Image rights: Intellectual property is (not) to be played with



An experience of playing a sports video game is strongly improved by its authenticity, which is also provided by accurately depicting real world sportsmen and sportswomen. This element is provided through the usage of image rights, which have to be properly acquired.


In late November, a famous football player, Zlatan Ibrahimović took to Twitter, questioning who permitted game developer EA Sports to commercially use his likeness in their popular video game FIFA 21. He called out FIFA and FIFPro in the process, stating that he did not allow any of them to financially profit using his rights. Shortly after, his agent Mino Raiola and another superstar footballer, Gareth Bale followed, the former eventually claiming that another 300 players are interested in proceeding with legal claims regarding the use of their image rights by EA Sports. A question must therefore firstly be asked, what are the image rights and whose are they to give?


The High Court of England and Wales attempted to provide a definition in the 2010 case Proactive Sports Management Ltd v Rooney & Ors [1]:


“Image rights means the right for any commercial or promotional purpose to use the player’s name, nickname, slogan and signatures, developed from time to time, image, likeness, voice, logos, get-ups, initials, team or squad number (as may be allocated to the player from time to time), reputation, video or film portrayal, biographical information, graphical representation, electronic, animated or computer-generated representation and/or any other right or quasi-right anywhere in the world of the player in relation to his name, reputation, image, promotional services, and/or his performances together with the right to apply for registration of any such rights.”


It can be seen that a very broad range of elements, forming one’s personality are included.


Image rights are far from being uniformly concepted across the world. In the European Union, they are generally seen as a personality right, the United States consider it a part of the right of publicity, arising from the concept of privacy, while the United Kingdom employs case law protection in the form of passing off tort.


Image rights have a non-commercial and a commercial aspect and they are primarily held by the individual whose image is reproduced, however other legal entities can also hold the image rights of third parties indirectly. Nonetheless, only the commercial aspect can be licensed. Are you an esports player or a content creator and need legal assistance with your image rights? Visit our specialised SPIKE esports agency (SPIKE ešportna agencija).


This is not the first time that similar claims have been brought to light by football players in regard to EA Sports. In as early as 2003, a German court ruled that the likeness of a legendary goalkeeper Oliver Kahn was used without permission in the FIFA World Cup 2002 video game. The Court even prohibited EA Sports from selling the game in Germany, imposing a fine of €250.000 should the order not be complied with.


More recently, in June this year 450 players in Brazil won a settlement of approximately €1 million against EA Sports as a result of a collective action brought by the Union of Athletes of Santa Catarina.


The developer’s reaction 17 years ago seems to be similar to present-day statements, claiming the responsibility lies elsewhere and that the use of likenesses is authorized by FIFPro, a worldwide representative organisation for professional footballers, while also stating it has contractual rights for their use by acquired licenses directly from leagues, clubs and individual players.


FIFPro released a statement claiming it acquires image rights through player unions in almost 60 countries, which are then made available to EA and other clients in the video gaming industry. Its member unions supposedly decide how to best use the revenue generated, either by distributing funds directly among players or providing services in kind such as legal advice, second-career planning, mental and physical assistance. FIFPro also similarly added that its relationship with the video gaming companies complements separate arrangements which the companies directly agree with clubs, leagues, governing bodies and individual players.


EA is however not the only game developer facing legal claims, for example the State Court of São Paulo reached a decision in 2018 against Konami, the developer of the video game Pro Evolution Soccer for an unauthorized use of image rights. [2]


It can be concluded that legal issues concerning image rights are not a new occurrence. However, the ever growing profits in the game development industry also by use of image rights and the connectivity of the world through social media, as showcased by Ibrahimović and others just might play a role in highlighting this topic and increasing the number of legal claims in the future. Even so, it remains to be seen how the recent statements of renowned football personalities will legally play out.


If you need legal support with addressing your intellectual property rights, Lemur Legal lawyers will be happy to help. Send us an inquiry at info@lemur.legal. Lemur Legal also operates SPIKE Esports Agency (SPIKE ešportna agencija), where we can offer you full support in your esports endeavours --> hello@spikesports.agency

[1] https://www.casemine.com/judgement/uk/5a8ff7b160d03e7f57eb144e [2] https://www.jusbrasil.com.br/processos/184826735/processo-n-1126481-2620168260100-50000-do-tjsp


Ibrahimovic vs. EA Sports

Komercialno izkoriščanje lastne podobe športnikov v video igrah


Igranje video igre je občutno izboljšano, ko ta nudi avtentično izkušnjo. Slednja je v primeru športnih video iger opazno močnejša, ko so športniki ali športnice natančno upodobljeni. Ta element je omogočen preko komercialne uporabe pravice do lastne podobe športnika (“image rights”), ki mora biti v vsakem primeru ustrezno pridobljena s strani razvijalca igre.


V lanskem novembru je slavni nogometaš Zlatan Ibrahimović pritegnil pozornost javnosti, ko je na Twitterju izpostavil razvijalca video iger EA Sports in domnevno neupravičeno komercialno uporabo Ibrahimovićeve lastne podobe v video igri FIFA 21. Poleg tega je navedel, da tudi FIFA - mednarodna nogometna zveza in FIFPro - mednarodno združenje profesionalnih nogometašev nista upravičena do finančnega dobička preko uporabe njegovih pravic. Kmalu zatem sta s podobnimi pomisleki sledila nogometni zvezdnik Gareth Bale in superagent Mino Raiola, ki je zatrdil, da se za uporabo pravnih sredstev proti EA Sports zaradi neupravičenega komercialnega izkoriščanja njihove lastne podobe zanima dodatnih 300 nogometašev. Sprva se je torej potrebno vprašati, kaj točno zajema pojem komercialnega izkoriščanja lastne podobe športnika in kdo lahko s takšno pravico razpolaga?


Višje sodišče Anglije in Walesa je poskusilo pojem opredeliti v zadevi Proactive Sports Management Ltd v. Rooney & Ors iz leta 2010:


“Image rights” pomeni pravico komercialne ali promocijske uporabe igralčevega imena, vzdevka, slogana, podpisov, podobe, zvoka, logotipov, začetnic, ekipne številke (ki je igralcu občasno dodeljena), ugleda, upodobitve v videu ali filmu, biografskih podatkov, grafične upodobitve, elektronske, animirane ali računalniško generirane upodobitve in/ali kakršnokoli drugo pravico ali kvazipravico igralca kjerkoli na svetu do svojega imena, ugleda, podobe, promocijskih storitev in/ali nastopov, skupaj s pravico do registracije katerekoli takšne pravice.” Ste ešportnik ali ustvarjalec vsebin in potrebujete pravno podporo glede komercialne uporabe vaše pravice do lastne podobe? Obiščite specializirano ešportno agencijo SPIKE.


Iz navedenega lahko zaključimo, da pojem zajema zelo širok nabor elementov, ki sestavljajo podobo športnika.


Komercialno izkoriščanje lastne podobe je v posameznih pravnih sistemih in državah razumljeno na različne načine. V Evropski Uniji je tako na splošno videno kot osebnostna pravica, v ZDA je smatrano kot del pravice do publicitete, ki izhaja iz pravice do zasebnosti, v Veliki Britaniji pa se je za varstvo potrebno poslužiti civilnega delikta (“tort”), imenovanega “passing off”.


Pravica do lastne podobe vsebuje nekomercialen in komercialen vidik, primarno pa pravica kot celota pripada posamezniku, katerega podoba je reproducirana. Ob tem lahko druge pravne osebe pridobijo pravico do uporabe lastne podobe športnika, vendar je to možno le glede komercialnega vidika pravice.


Nedavni pomisleki slavnih nogometnih osebnosti pa se niso pojavili prvič. Že v letu 2003 je nemško sodišče prisodilo v prid legendarnemu vratarju Oliverju Kahnu, saj je EA Sports brez soglasja uporabilo njegovo lastno podobo v video igri FIFA World Cup 2002. Sodišče je tedaj prepovedalo prodajo igre v Nemčiji ter določilo globo v višini 250.000 evrov, če odločitev sodišča ne bi bila spoštovana.


V bolj nedavni odločitvi je v lanskoletnem juniju 450 nogometašev sindikata športnikov Santa Catarina v Braziliji uspelo s kolektivno tožbo proti EA Sports v višini milijona evrov.


Odziv EA Sports izpred 17 let deluje podoben izjavi ob nedavnih trditvah Ibrahimovića in ostalih nogometnih osebnosti. Razvijalec iger namreč trdi, da je uporaba lastnih podob nogometašev avtorizirana s strani FIFPro in da poleg tega poseduje pogodbene pravice za takšno uporabo, pridobljene v razmerju s posameznimi nogometnimi ligami, klubi ter individualnimi igralci.


FIFPro je ob tem podala izjavo, da pravice do komercialnega izkoriščanja lastnih podob nogometašev pridobiva preko nogometnih sindikatov v skoraj 60 državah, ki so nato na voljo EA Sports in ostalim strankam v igričarski industriji. Sindikat določene države, ki je članica FIFPro, naj bi nato sam odločil, kako najbolje uporabiti dobiček iz naslova uporabe komercialne podobe pripadajočih nogometašev. Nekateri sindikati dobiček neposredno razdelijo med nogometaše ali pa ponujajo različne storitve, kot so pravne storitve, načrtovanje druge kariere ter psihična in fizična pomoč. Tudi FIFPro je izpostavil, da njegove dogovore z razvijalci video iger dopolnjujejo ločeni dogovori med podjetji in nogometnimi ligami, organi upravljanja, klubi in posameznimi igralci.


Kljub izpostavljenosti EA Sports, je potrebno omeniti, da se tudi drugi razvijalci video iger soočajo s podobnimi pravnimi težavami. Brazilsko državno sodišče je tako v letu 2018 sprejelo odločitev proti podjetju Konami zaradi neupravičenega izkoriščanja lastne podobe nogometaša v video igri Pro Evolution Soccer.


Po napisanem je mogoče skleniti, da pravne težave, povezane s komercialnim izkoriščanjem lastnih podob športnikov niso nov pojav. Kljub temu so Ibrahimović in ostale nogometne osebnosti s svojimi objavami na družbenih omrežjih vzbudili nov val zanimanja za obravnavano tematiko. Ob naraščajočih zaslužkih v igričarski industriji se bo tako morda marsikateri nogometaš ozavestil o stanju svoje pravice do lastne podobe, medtem ko usoda morebitnih pravnih zahtevkov Ibrahimovića in ostalih nogometašev zaenkrat ostaja neznanka.


Če potrebujete pravno podporo glede vaših pravic intelektualne lastnine, vam bomo pravniki iz Lemur Legal z veseljem pomagali. Pošljite nam povpraševanje na info@lemur.legal. Lemur Legal upravlja tudi SPIKE ešportno agencijo, kjer ešportnikom nudimo celostno podporo.



[1] https://www.casemine.com/judgement/uk/5a8ff7b160d03e7f57eb144e [2] https://www.jusbrasil.com.br/processos/184826735/processo-n-1126481-2620168260100-50000-do-tjsp


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