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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Buy A TH-65PX600U, Go To Jail

This is incredible: an Indiana church is being attacked by NFL lawyers for setting up a 100-inch projection television and hosting a communal Superbowl party. The church, Fall Creek Baptist Church in Indianapolis, had planned on charging attendees a nominal fee to cover snacks and billed it as a "Super Bowl Bash", when NFL lawyers fired off a cease-and-desist letter. Pastor John D. Newland offered to drop the fee and the use of the words "Super Bowl", but the wingtipped wingnuts would have none of it:
But the NFL wouldn't bite. It objected to the church's plans to use a projector to show the game on what effectively was a 12-foot-wide screen. It said the law limits the church to one TV no bigger than 55 inches.
Really? I can hardly wait to see what buyers of extra-large plasma TVs would have to say about that... moreover, I would like to see pointed out exactly what law this was that the church was allegedly violating.

Via Reason's Hit And Run blog.

Well, I think the appropriate response would then be to encourage as many people to crowd around as few TVs as possible to drive down the Nielsen's numbers.
Rob, could it have something to do with their tax status? I am sure that the government doesn't want entities that are tax-exempt owning a bunch of 12-foot TV's. That seems like a fair compromise to me. I still hate the NFL and think it stinks to go after folks partying it up on Super Bowl Sunday, but the church should do something other than that with their collection plate bounty.
Jim, I think this is an enormous bluff by the NFL, who in all likelihood are pushing the limits of what people can do with the words "Super Bowl". They expand from their broadcast rights the right to tell people what kind of TV they can watch, and how many people can do so, even in a setting where the goal is clearly not to make money by charging admission (even though admission is being charged)? That's ridiculous, and even the NFL ought to back down from that kind of a spurious lawsuit. The motivation, from TFA:

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league's longstanding policy is to ban "mass out-of-home viewing" of the Super Bowl. A major exception to the rule is made, however, for sports bars and other businesses that show televised sports as a part of their everyday operations.

"We have contracts with our (TV) networks to provide free over-the-air television for people at home," Aiello said. "The network economics are based on television ratings and at-home viewing. Out-of-home viewing is not measured by Nielsen."

So the NFL, which is trying to cadge as much money as possible from, well, everyone, is upset that a non-freaking-profit wants to hold a Super Bowl party? As someone in the Reason comments suggested, if I'm the church, I hold the party anyway and let's see the NFL sue me. That's not a battle I'd like to pick if I'm the NFL.

The law in question is 17 U.S.C. 110. Click on my name for the link. The TV size bit is down in paragraph. Keep in mind that a private home can have a TV of whatever size. The code is for public viewings of televised performances.

There was an interesting discussion on this matter at footballoutsiders.com, which is where I found the U.S.C. link.

The TV size bit is down in paragraph.

That should be paragraph five.
Walt, where should I click, again?
Wait, I get it. Here, in 17 USC 110, it talks about that, but the text of the law specifically states that

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, the following are not infringements of copyright:

(5)(A) except as provided in subparagraph (B), communication of a transmission embodying a performance or display of a work by the public reception of the transmission on a single receiving apparatus of a kind commonly used in private homes, unless—

(i) a direct charge is made to see or hear the transmission; or
(ii) the transmission thus received is further transmitted to the public;

Once the church had given up the nacho recovery fee, they had exhausted their obligations. Oh, but wait. Let's take a look at subparagraph (B):

(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—

... (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;

Given the explosion in screen sizes lately, I would say that (5)(A) is in direct conflict with (5)(B). And the NFL needs to chill out.

Sorry about the link thing, I was thinking of another web site where the posting system creates a link on your name if you put a URL in as your webpage.

As for the title itself, I am no lawyer, so I don't know if there's case law that should be considered along with the code that "clears up" the ambiguity between (5)(A) and (5)(B). Just pointing out there is a law that exists.

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