Posted: November 21st, 2014
Alexis Iffert (’16) won the final round of the 43rd annual Stanley Moot Court Competition held at Wake Forest School of Law on Friday, November 21st.
Iffert represented the fictional plaintiff Finnick Everdeen, arguing that the game “Spaceball” violated her client’s right of publicity. Robert “Woody” Angle (’16) represented the appellee, Electronika, arguing that the video game did not violate Everdeen’s right of publicity based on the analysis from Hart v. Electronic Arts. See below for a full summary of the case.
The judges were Richard Dietz (’02), judge on the N.C. Court of Appeals; Sally Adkins, an associate judge on the Maryland Court of Appeals; and Wake Forest Law Professor Simone Rose, an expert on patent, trademark and intellectual property law. Both competitors did extremely well responding to questions from a hot bench. In the end, all three judges spoke very highly of both finalists, saying that it was extremely difficult decision. Adkins stated that the decision came down to Iffert’s engaging presence.
Iffert was not the only student to take home an award. Julian Kisner (’16) was named best oralist and the winner of the James C. Berkowitz Award, which was presented by the Berkowitz family. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the death of James, who was in a car accident while returning to the law school to argue in the quarterfinals of the 1984 Stanley Competition. Lauren Emery (’16) was runner-up for best oralist.
Iffert also earned the award for best brief. Runner-up for best brief was Evelyn Norton (’16).
As a result of their performance in this competition, we welcome 11 new members to the Moot Court Board: Robert Angle, Alan Bowie, Zabrina Delgado, Joey Greener, Katye Jobe, Julian Kisner, Kelsey Kolb, Evelyn Norton, Katherine Yale, Diana Castro, and Benjamin Leighton.
A special thank you to Josh Adams and Jordan Dongell for a job well done as the competition chairpersons. This competition would not have been a success without your hard work.
The intramural moot court competition is named in honor of the late Judge Edwin M. Stanley, a distinguished Wake Forest alumnus and supporter, who served as a U.S. District Court Judge for the Middle District of North Carolina from 1958-1968.
The summary of the case at issue is as follows:
Plaintiff-Appellant Finnick Everdeen is a retired professional baseball player. In February 2007, he became a shortstop for the Pan Am Tracker-Jackers, a major league baseball team. In October 2013, a fastball struck him in the face, severely injuring him and forcing him to retire. Defendant-Appellee Electronika is a multi-million dollar interactive entertainment software company that produced Spaceball. Spaceball involves an alien race from Elysia inviting Earth’s most talented baseball players to participate in the Galaxy Games, a series of nine games pitting Elysians and Earthlings against one another at Elysian Fields. If the Elysian’s win the Games, their leader President Glow intends to invade Earth. Elysia’s baseball-like game, spaceball, has two rules that differ from baseball. In spaceball, only two strikes constitute a strikeout, and if strike two is a foul ball, the batter is still out.
The Earthlings are “Earth’s best baseball players.” In the default mode, the Earthling avatar shortstop closely matches Everdeen’s physical attributes, as referenced in the 2012 Pan Am Tracker-Jackers Fan Media Guide. In the default mode, the shortstop avatar is listed as 6’2’’ and 175 pounds with blond hair and “blue-green” eyes. The avatar throws right-handed and bats left-handed and has a batting average of .366. The avatar’s jersey is blue and green, its logo is a trident, and its number is two just like Everdeen’s jersey. These attributes and details match Everdeen’s attributes during his 2012 season with the Tracker-Jackers, except that Everdeen weighed 185 pounds and has blue eyes. However, at one point in his career he weighed 175 pounds and wore green contact lenses. In the default mode, the other Earthling avatars also closely resemble other Tracker-Jacker players from the 2012 season. Users can directly influence the game’s outcome through the user’s own play-calling and avatar control. Game users may edit certain physical characteristics, jersey number, jersey colors, batting average, and other attributes. For example, heights can be altered from 5’5” to 8’0” and weights can be altered from 120 pounds to 400 pounds. Each avatar is unnamed in the default mode, but users can name them.
After discovering Spaceball at a party with his friends, Everdeen brought suit against Electronika for violating his right of publicity in the United States District Court for the District of Pan Am. Electronika filed an answer, and subsequently a Motion for Summary Judgment, where it conceded that Spaceball violates Mr. Everdeen’s right of publicity, but argued that it has a First Amendment affirmative defense described in a Third Circuit case, Hart v. Electronic Arts. The District Court granted Electronika’s motion, and Everdeen appealed to the Fourteenth Circuit Court of Appeals. On appeal, the parties were to use the transformative use framework established in Hart, which requires an assessment of: (1) the differences and similarities between the avatar and the plaintiff; (2) the context within which the digital avatar exists, and (3) the ability of users to change the avatar’s appearance.