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  • Sivonnia DeBarros

What is NIL?

I get asked this question a lot: "What is NIL"? It makes sense though. NIL has caught on in the college space, but many athletes and parents are still struggling to grasp this concept.

And, If I'm being honest, it's more a legal concept that many even recognize.

So what exactly is NIL?

NIL stands for Name, Image, & Likeness. However, those three words are intellectual property assets - a person's right of publicity- that only they control and can be sold or rented for commercial profit.

Not all states have Right of Publicity statutes; therefore, it's essential that student-athletes understand other legal vehicles that can protect their NIL, such as trademark and copyright laws.


For instance, if you are the only person to own a name to which you're doing business, by common law, you have full rights and control of that brand in the state where you're using it.

The caveat: If you do not file a federal application to register the brand, you could lose the right to own or protect it at the national level.


Think about photographs, for instance. As soon as a person takes a picture, they own the right to that image, which is protected by copyright law. The same is true for other forms of art, the contents of books, and music. If a student-athlete has written a book, not only is their name attached to it, but they have created another asset along with their name which should be registered with the US Copyright office for greater protection of that work.

In this instance, the student-athlete should trademark their name and copyright their book.

Without understanding how one's NIL assets operate and the value they possess, student-athletes will inevitably transfer those rights, or unbeknownst to them, undervalue those rights when entering NIL deals.

Need support with this?

P.S. Did you hear about the Athletes Making Moves™ NILCOMBINE 2022 event? Experts from all over joined to educate, support, and provide actionable steps to student-athletes and entrepreneurs on monetizing and protecting NIL.

Get access to this vital information now. Click the button below.

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