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Thou Shalt Not View The Super Bowl on a 56" Screen 680

Posted by Zonk
from the that's-like-the-fourteenth-commandment-right dept.
theodp writes "For 200 members of the Immanuel Bible Church and their friends, the annual Super Bowl party is over thanks to the NFL, which explained that airing NFL games at churches on large-screen TV sets violates the NFL copyright. Federal copyright law includes an exemption for sports bars, according to NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, but churches are out of luck. Churchgoers who aren't averse to a little drinking-and-driving still have the opportunity to see the game together in public on a screen bigger than 55 inches."
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Thou Shalt Not View The Super Bowl on a 56" Screen

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  • by msauve (701917) on Saturday February 02, 2008 @06:49PM (#22277302)
    They are in no way creative works. What "original authorship" exists? "Copyright shelters only fixed, original and creative expression," which a football game isn't. [stanford.edu]

    Furthermore, to be copyrighted, a work must be fixed into a "tangible medium." That is not the case for a live broadcast (although it might be for an after-the-fact replay).
  • by Capt'n Hector (650760) on Saturday February 02, 2008 @07:03PM (#22277492)
    Easy: they copyright the broadcast of the football game, not the game itself. Then they prohibit anybody else from broadcasting the game (an agreement on admission to the stadium).
  • Don't you mean... (Score:3, Informative)

    by phillymjs (234426) <slashdot.stango@org> on Saturday February 02, 2008 @07:21PM (#22277646) Homepage Journal
    ..."Thou shalt not watch 'the big game'"?

    Remember, you can't use the name unless you cough up money to the NFL! It's trademarked!
  • by insignificant_wrangl (1060444) on Saturday February 02, 2008 @07:58PM (#22277928) Journal
    The Super Bowl is straight-up ole regular network TV. As the article mentions, all that this really affects is TV ratings (since fewer sets are showing the game). You must be European if you expect American TV ratings or copyright to make any kind of sense!
  • by The Analog Kid (565327) on Saturday February 02, 2008 @08:04PM (#22277974)
    Is the Super Bowl pay per view

    Nope. It's on Fox. In fact, Fox is free over the air. The problem they have with it, is that instead of lets say 4 people per 1 TV, they might have 40 people per 1 TV, where there would have been 40 people split using 10 different TVs. I think ratings are only affected if Neilsen homes aren't watching it though. So it all really comes down to ratings. They'd rather see 10 homes watching the SB rather than 1 church.
  • PSA (Score:3, Informative)

    by NikLinna (1232172) on Saturday February 02, 2008 @09:29PM (#22278666)
    The word you want in that context is "averse", not "adverse". This has not been a flame, just a helpful comment. I make no promise for what follows this post. :-)
  • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Saturday February 02, 2008 @09:39PM (#22278720) Homepage
    The telecast is licensed for "private home viewing"

    No, it's not, actually. Copyright law doesn't give any rights to the copyright holder with regard to private performances, so the copyright holder has nothing to license. In fact, even if he claimed that you couldn't watch the show privately on the basis of copyright law, you still could.

    Only public performances fall under the ambit of copyright law.

    Hell playing the radio in a Dr's office is technically infringing!

    No, that would probably fall quite nicely into the 17 USC 110(5) "homestyle" exception.
  • by cashman73 (855518) on Saturday February 02, 2008 @10:38PM (#22279154) Journal
    When was the last time you heard Bill Belichick (or really just about any of the New England players for that matter) thank Jesus Christ for their victories? Never, that's when.

    That's because Bill Belichick is God,... :-) Go Patriots! :-)

  • by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Saturday February 02, 2008 @11:15PM (#22279380) Homepage
    The 55-inch rule the NFL is referring to is U.S. Code Title 17 Section 110 [cornell.edu]:

    ...the following are not infringements of copyright:

    [...]

    (5) (B) communication by an establishment of a transmission or retransmission embodying a performance or display of a nondramatic musical work intended to be received by the general public, originated by a radio or television broadcast station licensed as such by the Federal Communications Commission, or, if an audiovisual transmission, by a cable system or satellite carrier, if-

    (i) in the case of an establishment other than a food service or drinking establishment, either the establishment in which the communication occurs has less than 2,000 gross square feet of space (excluding space used for customer parking and for no other purpose), or the establishment in which the communication occurs has 2,000 or more gross square feet of space (excluding space used for customer parking and for no other purpose) and--

    (I) if the performance is by audio means only, the performance is communicated by means of a total of not more than 6 loudspeakers, of which not more than 4 loudspeakers are located in any 1 room or adjoining outdoor space; or

    (II) if the performance or display is by audiovisual means, any visual portion of the performance or display is communicated by means of a total of not more than 4 audiovisual devices, of which not more than 1 audiovisual device is located in any 1 room, and no such audiovisual device has a diagonal screen size greater than 55 inches, and any audio portion of the performance or display is communicated by means of a total of not more than 6 loudspeakers, of which not more than 4 loudspeakers are located in any 1 room or adjoining outdoor space;

    (ii) in the case of a food service or drinking establishment, either the establishment in which the communication occurs has less than 3,750 gross square feet of space (excluding space used for customer parking and for no other purpose), or the establishment in which the communication occurs has 3,750 gross square feet of space or more (excluding space used for customer parking and for no other purpose) and--

    (I) if the performance is by audio means only, the performance is communicated by means of a total of not more than 6 loudspeakers, of which not more than 4 loudspeakers are located in any 1 room or adjoining outdoor space; or

    (II) if the performance or display is by audiovisual means, any visual portion of the performance or display is communicated by means of a total of not more than 4 audiovisual devices, of which not more than one audiovisual device is located in any 1 room, and no such audiovisual device has a diagonal screen size greater than 55 inches, and any audio portion of the performance or display is communicated by means of a total of not more than 6 loudspeakers, of which not more than 4 loudspeakers are located in any 1 room or adjoining outdoor space;

    In other words, this law carves out explicit permission for restaurants to have a television, which otherwise would be a copyright violation. It does not rescind fair use. Recall fair use as described by U.S. Code Title 17 Section 107 [cornell.edu] (emphasis added):

    In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include--

    1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
    2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
    3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
    4. the effect of the use u
  • by Xenographic (557057) on Saturday February 02, 2008 @11:26PM (#22279458) Homepage Journal
    IANAL, but this came up last year, too. They have a law written to forbid this, as stupid as it might be. If I could direct your attention to USC 17 110 (5) (B) (i) (II) [cornell.edu] or however you cite something buried that deeply in copyright law:

    (II) if the performance or display is by audiovisual means, any visual portion of the performance or display is communicated by means of a total of not more than 4 audiovisual devices, of which not more than 1 audiovisual device is located in any 1 room, and no such audiovisual device has a diagonal screen size greater than 55 inches, and any audio portion of the performance or display is communicated by means of a total of not more than 6 loudspeakers, of which not more than 4 loudspeakers are located in any 1 room or adjoining outdoor space;

    (emphasis added)

    They're correctly reading the law, as sad as it might be. Now, the law here is ridiculous, there's NO question in my mind about that. There are plenty of other ridiculous provisions in there just like this one. Alas, we have the best laws money can buy :-(
  • by crossconnects (140996) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <stcennocssorc>> on Saturday February 02, 2008 @11:29PM (#22279468) Homepage Journal
    actually the only people he condemned were the scribes and pharisees, who were the religious leaders of the day. He associated with the sinners, and drank with them!
  • Re:Heard it before (Score:2, Informative)

    by HumanEmulator (1062440) on Saturday February 02, 2008 @11:35PM (#22279518)

    Sports bars that have satellite TV or cable TV (most do) pay extra for public viewing service, so they've indirectly already chipped in to the NFL AND are counted in the ratings. (As accurately as the ratings count anything anyway.)

    DirectTV's commercial use rates start out at just around double the home rates (for 1-50 people in your bar) and scale up. http://www.directv.com/images/Directv%20For%20Business/Bars_And_Restaurants/Bars_and_Restaurants_Public_Viewing_Packages.pdf [directv.com] Getting local channels (like your local FOX affiliate) costs extra.

    Churches, as a non-profit, can subscribe to cheaper home services.

    You also can't underestimate how much more effective advertising is on drunk people.

  • by sumdumass (711423) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @01:22AM (#22280038) Journal
    This law isn't the result of money buying legislation. It is an artifact of a time when TV's with a screen size of 55inches are larger were so costly that it could only be assumed that they were being used in commercial establishments. Section 5 of 110 was created in 1975 and was designed so that if you turned on a TV or radio in a public place for what would be considered home use, you wouldn't be in a violation if people gathered around or could somehow see or hear the broadcast. You can find more about it here. [cornell.edu] Your probably going to find it easier to search for 5 and it will take you to the parts dealing with section 4 and give a little case history on it.

    The law probably needs an updating but it would be highly unusual if it didn't get updated with the best laws money can buy. This law, seeing how it was from 1975 seems to actually have the interest of the people in mind.
  • by Danse (1026) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @03:31AM (#22280566)

    It's all about those Neilsen boxes. If one person with a box goes to watch the game at church rather than at home, that shows up in the statistics as thousands of people not watching.
    Nielson people have journals too. They have accounted for the possibility of them watching TV somewhere besides their home.
  • by cfulmer (3166) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @10:58AM (#22282398) Homepage Journal
    In the U.S., the dividing line is in a different place. Under US Copyright law, an unauthorized "public performance" constitutes copyright infringement. A private performance doesn't. That's why it's OK to watch a DVD at home, but not in a movie theater when you open it up to the public. "residential" or "commercial" doesn't matter -- it's possible to have a private performance in a movie theater, and a public performance in a home.

    A performance is public if it's open to the public (i.e. anybody can come in) or if it's made to "a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances." For example, a small church (~50 people), all of who know each other, could watch the SuperBowl projected on a 20 foot screen, as long as it doesn't invite the public.

    The 55" screen thing is just the NFL saying "but, even if you do have a public performance, we won't bother you as long as you use a small screen." If the performance isn't public to begin with, the screen size doesn't matter.

    I do agree, though, that the NFL takes an aggressive stand on its rights. That's why you see so many advertisements about "the Big Game" instead of mentioning the SuperBowl itself -- the NFL claims that any commercial use of the "Super Bowl" mark has to be licensed. (The NFL tried to trademark "the Big Game" as well, but was denied.)

  • by sumdumass (711423) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @01:55PM (#22283750) Journal
    Perhaps the use of residential and commercial was the wrong technical or legal terms to use.

    However, section 5 of 110 of the copyright law is where the 55 inch screen limit comes from. It supposes that screens larger then that would only be used for public/commercial uses. It was written in 1975 so a 55 inch screen back then probably would be along the lines of a purposeful public performance by a commercial venture.

    I guess the point I was wanting to stress which I probably failed in making was that other ventures or copyright holders aren't so pedantic enough to make it known their copyright would stop a bunch of people not wanting to drink and smoke from getting together to view the game on a large screen. Personally, I think that if 20 groups of five people want to watch it on a 55 inch screen, they should be able to collectively assemble and watch it on a 1100 inch screen and this shouldn't matter much. But the reasons the general public is finding out that after 30 some years of a law's existance, with at least the last 10 of those years being where private groups could readily obtain screens larger then 55 inches and probable have been in violations to some extent, that a copyright holder has the ability to stop large groups of people from viewing the game on a screen larger then 55 inches that for all intended purposes would be a private viewing as described by section 5 of 110 of the copyright law, is because an excessively greedy organization put forth their copyright claims in a manor most people object to.

    Greedy might be a poor choice of words too. Maybe I don't know how to communicate the idea of what most people object to or disapprove in how copyright law is being used to go after people in these days. With RIAA style john doe lawsuits and fishing expedition's designed to trap someone who might be innocent and claims that you can't copy a CD to a portable media player and alll, this bit with the NFL going after a church seems to be at the top of things.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 03, 2008 @07:37PM (#22286268)
    Not quite. Participating households get a diary for each TV set in their house, where they enter the viewing information for everyone (household members and guests) who watches that set. Viewing done by any household member is not recorded if it doesn't take place on a set inside the household. (At least until they work out how they're going to do portable metering.)

    (If you hadn't figured, I used to work for Nielsen.)

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