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ESPN ordered to turn over documents in Ed O'Bannon's NCAA Likeness Lawsuit

A lawsuit that targeted the use of NCAA athletes' likenesses in video games is back in the news, after the same players' attorneys issued cease and desist letters to several television netowrks.

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TV networks targeted in likeness lawsuit

Everybody remember the doldrums of the 2010 college football offseason, when Jim Tressel had a job and North Carolina football flew under the radar and all we had to amuse ourselves with all spring was the possibility of the Big 12 collapsing under the weight of various strains of Texan hubris? The lawsuit lobbed against EA Sports by NCAA athletes and former athletes, including UCLA's Ed O'Bannon, Sam Keller of Arizona State and Nebraska, and Oregon's David Paulson provided a brief window of entertainment before disappearing into a morass of civil litlgation.

Now, over a year later, a quote from Paulson pondering the NCAA's rights to his likeness in perpetuity is suddenly legally relevant again:

He is not allowed to use his name to make some extra money, but if you turn on the television on a Saturday you will see ESPN promoting an upcoming game by using a players’ name and image.

Paulson, of course, was prescient. The money's in the Mouse, and the Worldwide Leader in Sports is one of the new targets of the players' alliance:

Attorneys for a group of former college players suing the NCAA over the continued use of their likenesses in commercials, video games and other mediums are taking their fight to ESPN, CBS and other major networks. A cease-and-desist letter sent Monday says each of the networks "appears to have no right" to feature the names, images and likeness of former major-college football and basketball players without their permission.

This lawsuit just got sexier, and the implications if it's at all successful could be wildly entertaining, but don't pop your popcorn just yet: The EA case won't even see a courtroom until next spring. Just in time to get us through the offseason of 2012.

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