Court: NFLPA Rights Were Violated
Jul. 12, 2000
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ A Web site violated NFL Players Association licensing rights by using the names, images and other attributes of league players, a federal court ruled Tuesday.
U.S. District Court Judge William P. Dimitrouleas ruled that Gridiron.com used names and images of players without paying for them, a violation of the NFL Players Contract and Licensing Assignment signed by 97 percent of players.
Dimitrouleas barred Gridiron.com from using six or more player images on its Web site. The site provides access to information on more than 150 NFL players, allowing people to search for players by name, team and position.
Dimitrouleas also denied Gridiron.com from entering into agreements with players under contract to the NFLPA, and from ``taking any other action in violation of NFLPA's exclusive licensing rights.''
``This was an important case for us,'' said Doug Allen, Players Inc. president and NFLPA assistant executive director. ``The money the players association receives from Players Inc. for those rights helps operate the union. It's money used to protect the rights of players and a very important resource.
``Gridiron.com's activity was an attempt to usurp that important resource.''
Representatives for Gridiron.com declined comment Tuesday.
Players Inc. pays a royalty to the NFLPA for exclusive player licensing rights, and it was these rights that were violated by the Web site, the court said.
The royalty is believed to be between $8 and $12 million, according to NFLPA spokesman Richard Berthelsen.
``Gridiron.com's Web site was a direct attack on the rights and resources the union uses to protect players through collective bargaining,'' said Gene Upshaw, NFLPA executive director and Players Inc. chairman.
The NFLPA and Players Inc. filed similar lawsuits against two other aggregators of NFL player Web sites, AthletesDirect.com and BigPros.com.
The NFLPA originally sent a cease and desist order to Gridiron.com last summer to prevent it from using players' names and images. But Web site engineers ignored the order and went to court, asking for judgment that would allow them to use players' attributes.
The NFLPA filed a counterclaim, and the case was scheduled to go to trial next week.