You may have seen in the news recently news and social media posts about high profile players like Zlatan Ibrahimović and Gareth Bale threatening legal action against EA Sports and other video gaming companies about image rights used in their games.
But this is not a recent phenomenon. FIFA and PES have always used player images. Back in 2014 Bale was on the cover of FIFA 14 alongside Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.
Is Zlatan Unsettling Old Dust?
And superstar Zlatan Ibrahimović was photographed posing for his FIFA 17 Ultimate Team Premier League Player of the Month card as recently as Jan 2017. But it seems the players are looking for some more financial compensation from EA Sports and PES’s Konami that use their likeness and player profiles.
Ibrahimović seemed to put the blame squarely at FIFPro, the Federation Internationale des Associations de Footballeurs Professionnel who represent professional football players and is better known for the Ballon D’Or Prize.
EA responded to this tweet by saying they had worked with FIFPro for years and had worked closely with FIFPro for exactly the reasons of securing rights to images of star players and now owned rights to all players it used images of.
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Agents Get Involved
Agents have involved themselves with strong indications they will take the dispute to legal proceedings. Super-agent, Mino Raiola, tweeted to claim that EA Sports has not responded to him about player rights for 10 years claiming that neither the club nor FIFPro owns rights to players images. “Maybe now you will reply, or only in court?” he threatened to which Gareth Bale’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, told the Guardian Newspaper potential legal action was “something that is being looked into”.
The same paper, The Guardian has information to support that “a number of high-profile players have instructed their representatives to look into whether they are entitled to some of the proceeds made from using their likeness on the game given that most contracts include lucrative image right deals”.
In England, the top tier clubs have collective agreements with commercial companies to use player info and images for video games. And these licenses are sold as a package. But in Italy, Serie A clubs like AC Milan where Ibrahimović now plays, are slightly different and may have individual agreements with commercial partners.
It was as far back as 2003 when Bayern Munich and German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn opened and won a legal case against EA Sports over his image on FIFA World Cup 2002 because it wasn’t expressly authorized by Kahn. This gives the players precedence that they could argue for and triumph against gaming companies over such rights.
A new update will be released for FIFA 21 soon with bug fixes, let’s hope they have the image rights issue resolved by then too. The version updates have fixed problems like when substitutes come on but lose unusually high amounts of Stamina and some badges weren’t displaying properly. For the full news on what is fixed, see the news here.