Dryer v. National Football League, No. 14-3428 (8th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs, twenty-three professional football players, filed a putative class action against the NFL, claiming that films produced by NFL-affiliate NFL Films violated the players’ rights under the right-of-publicity laws of various states as well as their rights under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125. Twenty plaintiffs settled, but appellants elected to opt out of the settlement and pursued individual right-of-publicity and Lanham Act claims. The district court granted summary judgment for the NFL. Applying the three Porous Media Corp. v. Pall Corp. factors, the court agreed with the district court’s conclusion that the films are expressive, rather than commercial speech and that the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 301(a), therefore preempts appellants’ claims. The court also concluded that appellants' claim of false endorsement under the Lanham Act fails as a matter of law because appellants provide no evidence that the films contain misleading or false statements regarding their current endorsement of the NFL. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment.
Court Description: Gruender, Author, with Wollman and Bye, Circuit Judges] Civil case - Sports Law. In action alleging NFL Films violated the plaintiff players' rights under the right-of-publicity laws of various states, as well as their rights under the Lanham Act, the district court did not err in granting the NFL's motion for summary judgment; the Copyright Act preempted the players' right-of-publicity claims; because the plaintiffs provide no evidence that the films contain "misleading or false statements" regarding their current endorsement of the NFL, their claim of false endorsement under the Lanham Act fails as a matter of law.