Name, image, and likeness (“NIL”) rights refer to the rights that individuals, like athletes, celebrities, or public figures, have to control and make money from the commercial use of their name, image, and personal brand. It allows them to benefit financially from their reputation and public image. NIL rights give individuals the freedom to engage in endorsement deals, sponsorships, and licensing agreements where their name, image, or likeness is used to promote products, services, or events. This can involve appearing in advertisements, endorsing products, or having their image featured on merchandise and promotional materials.
Since its formation, the NCAA has prohibited student-athletes from earning anything beyond what scholarships offer, which includes monetary or non-monetary compensation. If student-athletes violated this rule, they risked losing their eligibility to compete for their school. This penalty meant that they would no longer be able to play for their school. However, the NCAA has now implemented a rule that permits all college athletes to engage in NIL deals, regardless of whether it is permitted by their state.
There are four important aspects to consider regarding Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) rights. First, athletes can participate in NIL activities based on the NCAA rules and regulations of their state. Next, athletes can seek the assistance of professional service providers to help them find safe and compliant NIL opportunities. Also, student-athletes in states that do not yet have NIL laws can still participate in these deals without violating NCAA rules. Lastly, schools and athletic conferences can decide on the reporting rules that schools and athletes must follow.
NIL rights have been a significant matter of discussion among amateur athletes, especially between the National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”) and student-athletes. However, recent court decisions have sparked a new era for NIL rights, particularly in college athletics. As a result, college athletes have been able to benefit financially from their reputation and public image.
In O’Bannon v. NCAA, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that college athletes should be allowed to receive compensation for the commercial use of their NIL, but limited the compensation to a trust fund that would hold a portion of licensing revenue for athletes to access after their college careers. This ruling set the stage for future discussions and legal developments regarding NIL rights and the fair treatment of college athletes.
Additionally, in U.S. v. Alston, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the NCAA was not legally allowed to limit any education-related payments to students. Following the Court’s decision in Alston, the NCAA adopted new policies enabling college athletes to profit from their NIL, which marked a significant shift in the landscape of collegiate athletics. As of July 2021, athletes have now been profiting off their name, image, and likeness or earning payment from a third party for the use of their NIL.
Ultimately, the emergence of NIL in college athletics has marked a massive shift in opportunities available to student-athletes to profit off of their own reputation and public image. As a result, college athletes have been able to accept sponsorships and endorsement deals in an unprecedented manner, which may present new legal issues, specifically in intellectual property law. This legal development should be monitored as the influx of NIL deals will continue to pour in.
If you need to contact an attorney regarding a trademark, contact King Law Offices by calling (888)748-KING (5464) or filling out our consultation form. Our attorneys are experienced in litigation and intellectual property law and can assist you in assessing your options.