Super Bowl Copyright Nonsense

As you may have noticed, the National Football League guards it’s copyright over the Super Bowl very jealously. That’ s why you never see any retailer who isn’t an official sponsor or advertiser mention the Super Bowl in their ads for, say, big screen televisions, soda, or beer. Instead, they call it “the Big Game.”

Considering the amount of money that the game brings in, it’s not surprising that the NFL would be protective of it’s product. This, however, strikes me as an immensely inappropriate extension of the copyright law:

Churches in Indiana and across the country are scrapping traditional Super Bowl viewing parties in wake of the NFL’s stance that mass viewings of the game on big screen TV’s would violate copyright law.

The issue came to light Thursday when the Star reported that the NFL had told Fall Creek Baptist Church in Indianapolis that its plans for a Super Bowl watch party in front a big screen TV would be illegal.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Thursday the league stands by its interpretation of copyright law and would look into any violators that comes to the league’s attention. The main concern for the league, Aiello said, is groups that charge admission to watch games and those that use a TV screen larger than 55 inches to show the game.

A story about Fall Creek’s plan to cancel its game viewing plans prompted dozens of calls and more than 500 email comments to the Star’s website Thursday. Aiello said media from around the country have been inquiring with the league as well.

In Indianapolis, home of the AFC Champion Colts, Indian Creek Christian Church and Castleton United Methodist Church are among those who have cancelled plans to watch the game in their churches.

And it’s not just the issue that seems to annoy the NFL, because they even object to mass-viewing parties where no admission is charged:

Aiello said the league has a longstanding policy against “mass out-of-home viewings” of the Super Bowl, even if the hosts don’t charge admission. The NFL makes an exception to that, however, for sports bars that show televised sports on a regular basis.

Why the NFL should care if I invite 60 of my closest friends over to watch the Super Bowl, at no charge, on my bigger-than-55-inch television (if I had one, that is) is entirely beyond me. And it’s yet another example of how state-protected copyrights are used to restrict individual choice.

H/T: Vivian Paige

  • Stephen Littau

    I understand the part about not being allowed to charge admission to watch the game but I don’t understand the restriction on mass viewing without admission. What difference does it make if 60 people huddle around one television or watch 60 separate televisions, are they not still watching the same advertising?

  • Chris Byrne

    Whether they object or not, I dont see where they would have any cause for action against those who do not charge for a private exhibition.

    This by definition covers anything you do in your home, place of work, or a place that you designate; and which you invite specific individuals not the general public.

    So long as you do not receive direct compensation in excess of your costs for this (because it’s perfectly legal to hold a party where the guests chip in to pay for it), there is no cause of action for a copyright enforcement action.