By: Scott Hervey
Every practitioner should teach law school at least once. This year I am teaching Entertainment Law at the University of California at Davis. (Although flying up from and back to L.A. once a week can be a bit of a drag, so far it is a good experience.) Finding issues to trigger discussion and debate in class is forcing me to look at cases much differently. Since I already know the general holdings of the cases I am teaching, I find myself spending more time analyzing the dissenting opinion and loosing party’s position, looking for points that can foster robust in-class discussion. This week, in preparing for a class session on right of publicity, I re-read the recent 9th Circuit case of Keller v. Electronic Arts and found myself questioning whether the courts have changed the Transformative Use test set forth by the California Supreme Court and used to analyze a conflict between right of publicity and First Amendment protected speech.
The facts of Keller are straight forward. Electronic Arts produced an NCAA Football series of video games which allowed users to control avatars representing college football players and participate in simulated football games. In NCAA Football, EA replicated each school’s entire team as accurately as possible and every football player avatar had a jersey number and virtually identical height, weight, build, skin tone, hair color and home state as each real life player. EA’s player avatars reflect all of the real life attributes of the NCAA players; the only exception is that EA omitted the real life player’s name from the corresponding avatar and assigned the avatar a hometown that is different from the real player’s hometown.