Alright. It's Saturday…before SuperBowl Sunday, and I really don't have time for this, but it's cold outside and I can't get out and run just yet.
It seems that the NFL has cracked down on some Vegas casinos and at least one church for having a SuperBowl party. The issues? Charging admission, advertising the event, using the copyrighted term 'SuperBowl', and watching on a screen larger than 55". The league even took exception to the church's plan to influence nonmembers with a video highlighting the Christian testimonies of Colts coach Tony Dungy and Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith.
So, how does this affect our student ministry's get-together during the Big Game? For starters, we aren't having a SuperBowl party. We do, however, consider inviting a few of our closest friends (and their friends) to a time of fellowship Sunday evening. Say around 6pm. And the tv might be on. (note sarcasm) We definitely won't be charging admission and we certainly won't be rebroadcasting anything. We won't be using any supplemental material with a 'message' that connotes partnership with said NFL broadcast.
(On a side note, I find it sad that the NFL verbally spanked the above-linked Indianapolis church for planning to use the outreach video. But I completely understand the need for the NFL to "be consistent in refusing the use of our game broadcasts in connection with events that promote a message, no matter the content." That's the right of the copyright owners. Welcome to USAmerica.)
So, what about the issue of 'screens larger than 55"? According to David Reddel's document and the actual wording of the law on the copyright site, it's not at all clear that if you have a big HDTV screen, invite a bunch of friends over, live in 2,500 sq. ft. house, and send out invites with "Come to my big Super Bowl" party, that you won't technically be in violation of the law, the NFL's edict to discourage showings in churches and sports books, or both.
The 55" rule seems to be in reference to "…receiving apparatus of a kind commonly used in private homes" and is in regard to displays in food & drink vs. other establishments. (There's a separate clause regarding private home viewing, but when does a party cease to be private home viewing?) And, IMO, the law as written is out of date, since the 55" limit is no longer the upper limit for what's commonly used in private homes.
According to the Library of Congress Copyright Law:
Under current copyright law, copyright owners have the exclusive right to perform or authorize others to perform their works publicly, including by transmission such as broadcast, cable or satellite. When a restaurant or other commercial establishment turns on a radio or television for the benefit of its customers, that transmission is a public performance of a copyrighted work. Authors must be compensated for public performances except where the law specifically provides for an exemption to the compensation requirement. Section 110(5) of the current law allows for an exemption when three conditions are met: (1) when the communication is done through "a single receiving apparatus of the kind commonly used in private homes," (2) when there is no direct charge to hear or see the transmission and (3) when the work or program will not be further transmitted to the public. Reflecting Congress's intent to limit the exemption to small establishments, it is often referred to in the copyright community as the "Mom and Pop store" exemption.
It seems to me that after the Janet Jackson 'wardrobe malfunction' and subsequent uproar, the NFL would welcome the support (and free advertisement) of the upcoming 'event' by conservative, family-friendly environments, not just sports bars, taverns, and my local Hooters. After all, free publicity is still free publicity. I'm not sure how watching the game with my wife will affect me spending money on its advertisers any more than watching it with some students in my youth group. But that's me.
Is the 'ol 55-inch law outdated? Sure.
Does the NFL own the SuperBowl and get to decide how it's used? Yup.
Any way you look at it, the waters of this sXperbXwl fiasco are pretty muddy. And it looks like my house-church brothers get to score big this weekend…Maybe I'll just watch it over at that church called The Refinery, er, um, I mean, Shae's house.