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For the past seventy years, intellectual property law’s right of publicity has allowed for celebrities to monetize their names, images and likenesses for commercial gain. Until recently, the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) internal Principle of Amateurism excluded college athletes from the endorsement marketplace, keeping the wealth of college sports in the hands of a select few administrators, athletic directors, and coaches.

Following years of mounting pressure from the college-athletes’ rights movement, a number of states recently announced new laws to ensure college athletes the right to endorse products free from NCAA interference. As such, the NCAA begrudgingly relented on June 30, 2021, and deregulated certain aspects of its Principle of Amateurism. For the first time, the NCAA allowed individual schools and conferences, rather than the association itself, to dictate what name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals their athletes may enter.

A great deal of confusion and ad hoc development of policies by people who have never before been responsible for policing these types of activities has followed. In an ironic twist, many states that passed and implemented NIL laws have been placed in a position where they have more restrictions on college athletes in place than schools in states that never passed NIL laws. This Article, or perhaps more accurately, this Short Treatise, provides a comprehensive overview of the history of the right of publicity and discusses the legal risks facing the NCAA, collegiate conferences, schools, and athletes in this new world of college sports.

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