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

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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  • Is this now a yearly tradition for churches to whine about their Superbowl parties...

    Here is last years article same story, different church: []

  • by Vellmont ( 569020 ) on Saturday February 02, 2008 @07:54PM (#22277364) Homepage
    The NFL is a large corporation. Corporations prefer to use lawyers and scary sounding letters rather than the coppers. It's a lot harder to put a scary sounding letter on television than a bunch of cops busting up a church.
  • by OECD ( 639690 ) on Saturday February 02, 2008 @08:06PM (#22277520) Journal

    Is this now a yearly tradition for churches to whine about their Superbowl parties...

    Yes. This follows the new yearly tradition of the NFL to abuse its copyright in a manner that can only suggest RIAA envy.

  • by tompaulco ( 629533 ) on Saturday February 02, 2008 @08:46PM (#22277858) Homepage Journal
    What's with all this anger against the Church for showing the free over the air transmission for free to Church members and members of the community? They are not even charging admission! Where is the outrage against the sports bars who are profiting from the display of the Superbowl?
  • A bit silly (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sjames ( 1099 ) on Saturday February 02, 2008 @08:51PM (#22277884) Homepage Journal

    So, If they're a bar open to anyone who might stagger in, it doesn't count as public, but if they're a church and some of their members watch it's a pub;lic performance?

    That could get complicated FAST. If they roll the TV into the minister's house and he invites all his friends to a superbowl party is that OK? How about if they watch it in the church, but instead of the big TV, they each watch on a personal portable TV is that OK? If they all hop on one foot with a potato(e) strapped onto their heads while they watch, will that be OK?

    If indeed greed is a mortal sin, I guess the NFL's leadership better get used to the smell of brimstone.

  • by bri2000 ( 931484 ) on Saturday February 02, 2008 @08:53PM (#22277900)
    Is the Super Bowl pay per view (I'm in Europe and don't know what the TV arrangements are? If not what's being "stolen" from the NFL? Assuming no admission is being charged, how is having 100 people watch on one big screen any different from having 10 people watch on 10 smaller screen? They all see the ads and the sponsors.
  • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Saturday February 02, 2008 @09:07PM (#22278002) Homepage Journal

    Except that it doesn't affect ratings. Even if you are using one of the automated boxes, AFAIK, they still provide diaries for when you view something on another set. All you have to do is fill in that you watched it elsewhere.

    This is just the NFL being dumbasses, period.

  • by STrinity ( 723872 ) on Saturday February 02, 2008 @09:19PM (#22278102) Homepage

    Being a church is not a free pass to just do whatever you want. It might be a free pass to not pay taxes, but it doesn't mean you get to take someone else's show or movie and charge admission to watch it,
    Who said anything about charging admission? I fail to see how a large group sitting together to watch the Super Bowl is taking money away from the NFL -- they're no less likely to sit through the commercials in a group of 200 than by themselves in their home. The only problem would be if one of them's from a Nielsen house, which is statistically unlikely.
  • by alexgieg ( 948359 ) <> on Saturday February 02, 2008 @09:33PM (#22278220) Homepage

    That doesn't mean that stealing from them is okay.
    I've just copied your message, pasted it into a text file, and saved it to my hard disk. I have STOLEN YOUR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY !!! Soooo, just for the sake of keeping our respective accounting records synchronized, could you please tell me by how many dollars I've diminished your property with my T-H-E-F-T act? Because, you see, on my book it says I'm exactly $0.00 richer.

    To make things clear, an old meme: copyright infringement isn't theft.
  • by zerocool^ ( 112121 ) on Saturday February 02, 2008 @10:21PM (#22278604) Homepage Journal

    Actually, and I kid you not, the fundamentalist southern baptist church that I went to when I was younger and still under the thumb of my parents did exactly what you're saying.

    Seriously, they figured that people would be watching the superbowl, and that's UNACCEPTABLE! Why? BECAUSE THE ADS ARE FOR BEER. Can't have good christians watching advertisements with frogs saying "Bud", now can we? So they showed the superbowl up on the wall of the gathering area at the church with a projector, and during the commercials, they'd instead air mini-commercials about jesus that the youth group had put together.

    Yeah. No joke. Wild.

  • by Redbaran ( 918344 ) on Saturday February 02, 2008 @10:25PM (#22278642)
    The best thing this church could do is call the NFL's bluff and play the game anyway!

    Let's consider the worst scenario, the NFL does sue. So what?!?! Odds are that the NFL will lose and then there is a good chance the church could counter-sue and reclaim any costs incurred.

    But, let's be realistic, it would be a PR suicide attempt for the NFL to sue a church. The only thing the church could do better then simply showing the game would be to bus in a load of poor, handicapped, cancer-inflicted children from broken homes. I'd like to see the NFL sue that!!
  • ...that may apply.

    Some of you guys may help me remember the details, but this was years ago and it had to do with receiving HBO and "ON-TV" (remember them?) via home made antenna or big sat dish. HBO and ON were both originally available in many areas using a special antenna. This was pre-cable tv, but not by much. The signal was scrambled by not by much. I recall a little 9 volt dc block adapter powered unit that went in-line on the coax from the antenna that could decode it. By todays standards, it wasn't encryption at all, more obscurity than security. I think the picture was shifted half way over, and the end that went off screen was prepended to the other side or something.

    Anyway, you could get it that way or your could catch the feed as it went across the big sats as that was completely open. Ah, the days before DRM.

    As I recall, the supreme court ruled then that if you could receive it out of the air and not have to descramble it, then you were within your rights to watch it. If I'm remembering it accurately, and if it hasn't been reversed, then the NFL's only actionable complaint would by with the networks for not protecting the copyrighted material. This is even more true if you're watching it by using an antenna and HD tuner rather than cable tv.

    Ok, flame the crap out of me for being wrong or outdated now. I'm putting my gnomex hood on and donning SCBA...
  • by zenkonami ( 971656 ) on Saturday February 02, 2008 @11:24PM (#22279026) Homepage Journal

    I'm not sure about this, but the NFL probably does lose revenue from public showings. If a theater wanted to show the superbowl, they would most likely have to pay licensing fees to the NFL. This church wants to skip that step and show it publicly to an unknown number of people.
    Possibly, but I just keep thinking, don't they make their money on advertising? And isn't a big public gathering a great place to be squeezing ads every few plays? Since it will likely be loud and on a big screen, it will be difficult to avoid, and more than likely plenty will just hang out during the commercials and talk to one another we do in our living rooms...while we're watching the games.

    Isn't that what you want, NFL? People planted firmly in their seats? Subliminally absorbing the ads?

    Or have I completely misunderstood how this works.
  • by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara.hudson@b ... u d s o n . c om> on Saturday February 02, 2008 @11:32PM (#22279090) Journal

    "Only public performances fall under the ambit of copyright law."

    A couple of hundred people gathered in a church is a "public performance."

    Especially since they're using it as an "outreach" to people who aren't regular church-goers. That makes it not only a public performance, but performance in return of expectation of a "good or valuable consideration".

    The church is in the wrong here - like on so many other things.

  • by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Saturday February 02, 2008 @11:34PM (#22279114) Homepage Journal
    Heck, we've got MythTV set to record the Super Bowl tomorrow, complete with commercial flagging.

    Monday night, we're going to use the commercial flagging in reverse - to skip the game and watch the commercials. Of course that's the once-a-year that the commercials are more worth watching than the event they're sponsoring. Come to think of it, most of the time both are about equally valueless.
  • by SETIGuy ( 33768 ) on Saturday February 02, 2008 @11:37PM (#22279146) Homepage

    My wife and I were just talking about this, and agree that it's not because the sports bars have paid for it; after all, there's no "Huge National Association of Sports Bars" for Fox to collect a fee from.
    They haven't paid a fee. They've paid legislators. It's cheaper to buy new laws or threaten to buy new laws when necessary. Ever heard of the "National Restaurant Association", "American Beverage Institute," "American Beverage Licensees," and their international equivalents? The NFL has nowhere near the political clout of these organizations. When football's impact on the economy hits a trillion dollars annually, then congress might talk to them.
  • by SL Baur ( 19540 ) <> on Sunday February 03, 2008 @12:30AM (#22279480) Homepage Journal

    Since most people are apparently too stupid to notice how the greedy bastards are taking away their freedoms
    My taste for American football has been seriously dampened by the TV broadcasting rules. For awhile I was able to listen to Miami Dolphins football on the radio via internet (when the TV market for southern California was ruined by the Oakland Raiders and the Rams), but then I moved overseas and although I've missed it, I haven't missed it enough to jump through whatever hoops they want you jump through to see the teams you really want to see.

    Geographic based broadcasting sucks, big time. Borders and geography are like so 20th century ... Miami Dolphins/Yakult Swallows ftw!
  • by daBass ( 56811 ) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @01:04AM (#22279670)
    The summary is misleading; it says sports bars are exempt. In fact, they are not, they have a special commercial agreement.

    The reason for not allowing more than x-amount of people is that it is assumed that the only reason you get that many people together to watch something, you are making money on it and they can't have anyone making profit on their product without getting some of the action! In the case of sports bars that profit would be from selling food and drink. In the case of a church it must be the collection tray. The reason is the same as just buying a CD doesn't mean you can play it in a venue without paying further royalties.

    The moral of the story is that if you get that many people in one room, you *should* be making profit and you not doing so is not the NFLs problem. Pay up or send all the folks to other venues that do make a profit on it and pay the NFL what is rightfully theirs.

    What a blood suckers.
  • by Gandalf_Greyhame ( 44144 ) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @01:04AM (#22279674) Journal
    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

    So, 5.1 is out then too?
  • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @01:51AM (#22279914) Journal
    It has always been this way. It is considered commercial access and not residential if you have more then so many potential viewers. Homes have an exception because they are always residential but you could be walking a fine line if you had a home based business in the same home.

    I think they do this not because you are going to charge admission but because it adds value that wasn't there before or without it. Interestingly, your supposed to pay for the use of over the air broadcasts in these commercial situations too. Even if your a noncommercial establishment but have the require seating capacity to be considered commercial for this purpose. I have seen royalty checks go out to radio stations because they played the radio on hold for the phone systems at a certain company.

    You probably haven't noticed this stuff because rarely is there an organization like the NFL who is greedy enough to think they need to demand the fees in public from everyone rather accept that some viewers won't be counted and they will make an ass load of money anyways. Remember last year when they sent take down notices and sued a couple people for trademark infringement when advertising Super bowl parties?

    Maybe it is time to start an unofficial boycott of the super bowl where people start writing advertisers claiming they won't buy any of their products because of the greed the super bowl has become and maybe plan a pledge drive or something that advertisers can show the super bowl people to get lower rates next year. Maybe when their 5 million dollar spot only brings 2 million they would get the idea that actions like banning churches and nonprofits and so on, and regulating screen sizes isn't in the best interest of their bottom line. I seriously doubt you could get a complete boycott of the game, so working to get something together to give advertisers the ability to pay less would probably work better. I would be willing to write all the advertisers claiming I wouldn't buy their product (even though I probably would) because of the NFLs policies and the way their payment of large fees enables their behavior that we find negetive. The NFL would get the hint.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 03, 2008 @03:10AM (#22280196)
    Some of the older people have trouble reading the hymnals, the projector screen is larger and therefore more readable.

    This raises an interesting question though; since most churches have/use PROJECTORS (not large televisions), does this 56" rule apply to the projector apparatus size (only a few inches), or the size of the image projected (completely variable depending on the projector/screen distance, therefore it's difficult to prove any violations)?
  • by sulimma ( 796805 ) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @04:44AM (#22280626)
    The same issues came up during the soccer world championchips. (FIFA tried to sell licenses for public viewing) Here is how they were resolved in Europe. 1. A soccer game is not an original work in the sense of copyright law. As the landlord of the stadion they can control who puts up cameras there, but there is no copyright on the games themselves as they are lacking the creative process. (When I thing about it, wrestling matches might fall under copyright) 2. The TV shows produced by the people owning the cameras in the stadion falls under copyright law. They license this for broadcasting to TV stations. 3. The copyright law in germany protects an explicit list of actions that needs to be licensed like "public performace", "distribution", "broadcasting", "copying". The assumption is that any act can be classified as one and only one of these categories. Live TV viewing requires a "broadcasting" license paid for by the TV company. Turning on the TV in a public place does not make it an additional "public performce" as the broadcasting is public anyway. If record it onto tape. (copying) and replay it later in public you are doing a "public performce". But watching while the show is aired requires only the "broadcasting" license. This was tested in court and it makes perfectly sense to me.
  • by plover ( 150551 ) * on Sunday February 03, 2008 @12:58PM (#22282844) Homepage Journal
    Actually, the church can still show the super bowl anyway.

    The NFL has no authority to prevent it. They can merely threaten after-the-fact legal action if they do.

    And I don't think that would work out too well for the NFL. "Your Honor, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, today I'm going to prove that these Christians stole the rights to our game for use in their church!" If the jury doesn't run the NFL's lawyer out the door just from the opening statement, I'd be amazed.

  • Perspective (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Xenographic ( 557057 ) on Sunday February 03, 2008 @01:56PM (#22283262) Journal
    Well, I guess my problem is why that could ever be a violation to begin with. You see, if it's coming over the air, I don't think it should be a "violation" no matter what. I could *barely* see it if it were Pay-Per View or something, but for freely accessible things, I don't think it should be *possible* to violate copyright law merely by tuning in. And I really don't give a damn if someone manages to make a buck or two off of that by providing folks with a nice, big TV to watch it on. It's the TV they're paying for, after all, NOT the TV show.

    Just more expectation setting, I guess. They won't rake us over the coals, just one coal, and it will only be red hot, not white hot. As if that's some kind of consolation, when they shouldn't be raking people over the coal(s) at all...

"It takes all sorts of in & out-door schooling to get adapted to my kind of fooling" - R. Frost