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A Win for Collegiate Student-Athletes

Written by: Lauren E. Rosenbaum

Pennsylvania student-athletes at the collegiate level are now able to receive compensation for the use of their name, image or likeness under legislation passed in conjunction with the 2021-2022 state budget. As a result, Pennsylvania joins several other states allowing student-athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness.

Name, image and likeness rights are the three elements comprising the “right of publicity.” Until recently, collegiate student-athletes were not afforded the opportunity to profit off their name, image or likeness without losing their eligibility to compete.  To be considered a “college student athlete” under the legislation, the student-athlete must participate in intercollegiate athletics for the institution; individuals participating in intermural or club sports, or professional sports outside of intercollegiate activities do not fall under the purview of the legislation. The legislation applies to institutions of higher education throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Key Provisions

Under this new legislation, student-athletes can earn compensation for the use of their name, image or likeness. Further, the collegiate institution or athletic association is not permitted to revise the student-athlete’s scholarship due to the student-athlete’s receipt of compensation for the name, image or likeness, or prevent the student-athlete from earning compensation. Student-athletes are also entitled to receive royalty payments on “a college team jersey, a college team video game or college team trading cards for the purposes of making a profit . . . [when the student-athlete’s] name, image, likeness or other individually identifiable feature is used.”

Similar to other states, student-athletes are prohibited from entering into any agreements concerning adult entertainment products and services, alcohol products, casinos and gambling, tobacco and electronic smoking products and devises, prescription pharmaceuticals, and controlled substances. The collegiate institution may also prohibit the student-athlete from being involved with agreements conflicting with the collegiate institution’s sponsorship agreements or that conflict with the institutional values which are to be defined by the collegiate institution.

Where an Attorney Can Help

The legislation provides that student-athletes may use professional representation which includes an attorney admitted to practice in Pennsylvania. It is in most student-athletes’ best interests to retain representation to ensure they understand the terms of the agreement, as well as that their rights and interests are protected. A professional representative will also be able to assist the student-athlete in complying with the collegiate institution’s disclosure requirements.

Pennsylvania’s new name, image and likeness legislation is a turning point for collegiate student-athletes, providing additional opportunities that previously were off-limits.

[Note: This blog post is meant to examine the current state of Pennsylvania law regarding name, image and likeness. For specific guidance from other states and/or the NCAA, please check their direct resources. Information included in this post is subject to change as the law in this area is rapidly evolving.]

DISCLAIMER: The information in this blog should not be construed as legal advice to be relied upon nor to create an attorney/client relationship. Please note that the reader’s or an industry’s specific situation or circumstances will vary and, thus, for example, an approach that is advisable in one industry may not be appropriate in another industry. If you have questions about your situation or about how to apply information contained in this blog to your situation or industry, you should reach out to an attorney.  The views expressed in this blog are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm or the firm’s clients.

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