IMG requests dismissal of Spielman's 'inadequate' antitrust lawsuit
IMG, the international sports and entertainment company that merged with Hollywood talent agency WME in 2015, has requested the dismissal of an antitrust lawsuit brought against it and 89 US universities over the alleged improper use of former players’ images.
IMG said in a filing in a federal court in Columbus last week that the lawsuit, brought by former American football linebacker Chris Spielman, failed to show how former footballers at the universities had been prevented from marketing their own likenesses.
In November, the lawsuit against IMG and Ohio State University was expanded to cover all 89 universities with commercial contracts with IMG.
The original lawsuit cited, in particular, 64 banners hung around Ohio Stadium featuring former players, including Spielman, whose legal action also targets Honda, the Japanese car giant that sponsored the banners.
However, Joseph Castrodale, an attorney representing IMG, said in the filing: “The inadequate, lumped-together allegations and unexplained causal links of the prior complaints are unchanged.”
Castrodale also contended that Spielman’s proposal to remove university-owned pictures of ex-athletes from their control would jeopardise “all the schools’ copyrights in their own athletic archives, recruiting materials, and publications touching on their own legacies.”
Spielman said in a statement in November: “I have filed this amended complaint on behalf of all former players through our team of attorneys. The amended complaint was filed in order to protect the rights of all former collegiate football players associated with IMG (‘former players’) and those who will ultimately become former players.
"We were provided the IMG contracts with OSU two weeks ago, and we believe that similar agreements are in place with at least 89 institutions which offer no protection to the name, image (and) likeness of former players, but provides, for example, OSU with approximately $2.5 billion of revenue/incentives. OSU is now one of 89 institutions in business with IMG to deprive current and former players of the rights to their own names, images, and likeness…
“I am now committed to pursue this case to the end on behalf of all former players, and to return the individual rights to each and every former player and those who will ultimately become a former player.”
Honda’s contract is with IMG, which argued in its original filing to the court that there is no evidence that it did anything wrong, saying that the lawsuit “does not specifically allege that IMG did anything in connection with any alleged wrongdoing, or is about to do anything wrongful that should be prevented.” IMG also backed the university’s defence that it is, in any case, immune from such legal action.
Spielman, who went on to play for the Detroit Lions in the NFL, is demanding compensation above $75,000, claiming that the university and the companies are guilty of “unjust and monopolistic behaviors” and pointing out that Ohio State makes millions of dollars from merchandising programmes involving former athletes.