Sunday, September 24, 2017

NFL Wants To Remind You That Having People Over To Watch The Super Bowl On A Big Screen Is Copyright Infringement

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from the laws-written-by-lobbyists dept

What is it with sports leagues and their desire to limit how their fans can enjoy the game? There's Major League Baseball, who keeps trying to insist that they own the facts related to a game, and no one can use them without paying MLB first. Then, there's the NFL, who freaked out about TiVo and also tried to ban any broadcasters from using "unauthorized" video feeds to show what happens in the stadium (i.e., no sideline cameras any more). They've been particularly fussy about the Super Bowl, however, forcing advertisers to call it "the Big Game" or whatever, claiming excessive control over the trademark (remember, trademarks are really designed to prevent consumer confusion, not to give holders full control over the mark).

The latest situation is perhaps even more bizarre -- but tragically, seems to fall closer to a correct legal reading of a really poorly written law. The NFL apparently nastygrammed a church for planning to host a Super Bowl party. The original complaint was first that the church was charging people, but also that they used the term "Super Bowl" (as if people would somehow believe that the church was associated with the NFL?). After the church agreed to let people in for free and not use the term, the NFL continued to complain, saying that showing the Super Bowl on a screen larger than 55 inches represents copyright infringement. While we, at first, doubted the reality of this, Ben Austro sent in the fact that it is, indeed, spelled out in copyright law that once you get above 55", you may be talking about a "public performance," though, as Ben notes, the wording sounds like it was clearly written by a lobbyist. No matter what the law states, this seems ridiculously short-sighted by the NFL. It's hard to see how they lose out in any meaningful way by not allowing groups to watch the Super Bowl together. Of course, now that this particular quirk of copyright law is getting some attention, how long will it be until the MPAA starts cracking down on those of you with really big screen TVs from showing movies in your home theaters. What was a joke just a few months ago, may become real.

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