Expert on college athlete group licensing: I think we've gotten caught up in the don'ts, instead of the do's"
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We're a few weeks away from the kickoff date for dozens of state-level NIL bills.
The bulk of those bills are centered around the ability of individual athletes to secure individual deals for themselves. Soon, individual athletes in specific states will be able to give sport lessons, monetize their social media channels, sign sponsorship arrangements and sign autographs, all without NCAA penalty. Athletes in the NAIA have been doing this for months, and soon, all college athletes will have this ability.
But those aren't the only potential deals for college athletes. There are also deals that involve group licensing, a vehicle that current state legislation doesn't really address.
If you don't work in college athletics but are familiar with group licensing, it's probably because of the popular EA Sports College Football video games. EA secures the IP of various college athletic departments, and if they want to include the actual names and likenesses of current college athletes in future games, they'll need a group license. Individually signing up thousands of athletes for one project isn't really logistically feasible.
I reached out to Malaika Underwood, a former college athlete at North Carolina and current Senior Vice President at OneTeam Partners, to better understand what this marketplace looks like in a sea of continued regulatory uncertainty.
Group licenses. Not just for the video game!
Underwood told me that group licensing will need to be the mechanism to secure athlete IP for all sorts of consumer-facing products. "If we are going to see athlete names on the back of jerseys, t-shirts, or other products, it will have to happen through group licensing."
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