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NFL Sends Copyright and Trademark Laws Over the Top

January 19th, 2008

litigious-nfl.jpgOne of the reasons that I have come to loathe most of American society is its overly litigious tendencies. For example, here in South Texas it has become commonplace for a certain segment of the population to make a regular income through the lucrative potential of personal injury lawsuits. People often collect unreasonably large sums of money from settlements with drivers or their insurance companies in minor accident cases where there was no substantial damage or injury.

Now it seems that professional sports organizations such as the National Football League are getting in on the over-the-top legal craze. In this latest story from Techdirt.com, the NFL is threatening possible legal action against a church for wanting to host a Super Bowl party and show the “big game” on a wide screen TV. Not only are they complaining about the use of the phrase “Super Bowl”, but apparently a television screen that is over 55 inches wide is technically considered part of a “public performance”. Here is the relevant excerpt:

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.

This sort of over-the-top legal silliness has given me yet another reason to avoid having anything to do with professional sports. Although many sports can be enjoyable for good exercise or recreation (as I have experienced through participation in my fair share of backyard football games over the years), the corporatization of the major sports leagues, ridiculously high salaries demanded by players, lack of any real team loyalty, and overall prevalence of greed over common sense took much of the fun out of the games and made it seem pointless to remain a fan of any particular team.

Although I tolerated it through the 1980’s, once I started seeing things like Nike logos on the players’ jerseys and noticed that even college football had become infested with such tripe as the “CarQuest Bowl”, I knew it was time to get out. Sadly, now it seems that the lawyers are taking over as well and further corrupting what was once a relatively wholesome sport.


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