Montana Enacts a Name, Image, and Likeness Law for Student-Athletes

Montana Senate Bill 248 went into effect on June 1, 2023. This law allows student-athletes to earn compensation from Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) endorsement deals and is part of a trend of NIL legislation being passed by states that allow student-athletes to monetize endorsement deals.

The Montana NIL law is broad. It codifies protections for student-athletes enrolled at colleges or universities in Montana (public or private) and allows these student-athletes to enter deals and earn compensation for the use of their likeness. This includes compensation for autographs, endorsing products, or appearing in commercials. The law also allows student-athletes to engage professional representatives, like agents.

The Montana NIL law does impose some restrictions on NIL deals. The law requires student-athletes to disclose their NIL deals to a college or university official – even if the deal was entered before enrollment.  It also prohibits colleges and universities from compensating their prospective or current student-athletes for use of their likeness and prohibits athletic conferences from entering NIL deals with student-athletes.

Additionally, Montana’s NIL law prohibits student-athletes from entering NIL deals that would violate any contract their college or university has with a third party, and deals that would violate the student-athlete’s team rules. Teams cannot, however, establish rules that prohibit NIL compensation for the use of the student-athlete’s likeness outside of official team activities. If a college or university believes an NIL deal conflicts with a contract or team rule, it must disclose the specifics of the violation to the student-athlete or their representative.

Interestingly, Montana’s NIL law allows colleges and universities to serve as agents for student-athletes, and to manage contracts that use the athlete’s likeness.

The law takes effect just as a number of federal bills that could impact NIL deals are currently being discussed in Congress. Federal proposals, including the College Sports Clearinghouse Act of 2023; the Fairness, Accountability, and Integrity in Representation of College Sports Act; and the Student-Athlete Level Playing Field Act, should be monitored as federal-level NIL debates continue. 

Student-athletes, schools, and businesses looking to enter NIL deals should become familiar with Montana’s NIL law – but should also keep an eye on congressional proposals. Proposals for federal NIL legislation would have broad implications if passed. 

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.