Ex-college athletes sue photo firm

Lawyers working on behalf of former college athletes in cases against the NCAA filed suit in California federal court on Tuesday for at least $5 million against a company that sell photos of college players online.

The class-action suit alleges that Professional Photo Store Fronts and Printroom.com, owned by a company called Brand Affinity Technologies (BAT), sell these pictures as licensed to them by the schools without permission of the athletes and in violation of an NCAA rule.

Schools do have the right to use photographs in connecting with promoting actual games, but the case will hinge on whether selling the images is permissible.

NCAA rule 12.5.2 prohibits the athletes from allowing their "name or picture" to "advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product of any kind." That rule also stipulates that if an athlete finds out about a sale involving his or her name or picture that the athlete or the school must do what they can to stop it.

Although neither the NCAA nor the more than 90 schools that have a relationship with the company are listed as defendants in the suit, the case alleges they are in cahoots with the photo company.

"The conspiring schools actively participate in the promotion of the images directly linking to ... storefronts from their athletic department home pages," the suit said.

A spokesman representing BAT said the company won't comment on any pending litigation.

For its use, the suit, which is being brought by former UTEP defensive lineman Yahchaaroah Lightbourne, says former student-athletes are owed more than $5 million.

One school, Florida State, after being contacted by the lawyers in this case, stopped selling photos of its athletes on its website, the case notes.

It's an active time in the courts for former college athletes. A class action lawsuit brought by former athletes against Electronic Arts for using their images in its video games is currently in district court in New Jersey.

Another class action lawsuit brought by former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon is seeking to have EA, marketing company Collegiate Licensing Company and the NCAA award the group money they claim is owed to them for misappropriating their rights.