My Official Super Bowl Television Post

kitten bowl[Madisonian readers: I wrote this for a general audience. I'm reposting here for your amusement/fact-checking.]

The 48th annual Super Bowl is tomorrow, which means of course that people are thinking about intellectual property law. (Doesn’t everyone?) No, I’m not going to talk about whether your local grocery store infringes on the NFL’s trademark when they advertise “Super Bowl Savings,” except to pose the question of whether a single person ever has been actually confused about whether that indicates a relationship between the NFL and the grocery store. Or the makers of this thing. Rather, I’m going to talk about television. Specifically, what size television can you watch the Big GameTM on?

The NFL caused a bit of confusion on this score when they sent a cease and desist letter to an Indiana church back in 2007 that was planning on hosting a Super Bowl party for church members, with a fee for attendance and the game displayed on a “giant” TV. (I can’t find a description of the exact size.) In the letter and in subsequent pronouncements, the NFL took the position that it was a violation of copyright law to display the Super Bowl to a public gathering on a screen larger than 55 inches diagonally. In the face of likely congressional legislation in 2008, the NFL backed down and said it would not enforce its rule against church groups. But it still maintains that others cannot display the game publicly on sets larger than 55″.

News stories about the controversy have gotten some parts of the relevant copyright law correct, but are still a bit confusing on the 55-inch “rule” and where it comes from. So I’ll try to clarify. The short version: There is no 55-inch rule, at least not for the game itself. Continue reading

Copyright and the Mantei T’eo Case

By now, every sports fan has heard about the hoax apparently perpetrated against Notre Dame linebacker Mantei T’eo. And though most of the discussion has revolved around whether T’eo can credibly claim to be a victim, a few people have begun discussing whether the perpetrator of the hoax bears legal liability for what he’s done. Most of these discussions talk about the difficulty of holding the perpetrator liable.

Now, I realize that for a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Nevertheless, what about a copyright action against the perpetrator for taking the photos from someone else? Granted, it’s not the most traditional use of copyright, but it doesn’t seem so far-fetched to me. Maybe there wouldn’t be a lot of provable damages, but willful statutory damages (up to $150,000 per infringement – and I believe the perpetrator used multiple photos) could get large enough to really hurt, especially since the perpetrator isn’t a wealthy man.

Exquisite Irony: High School Officials Struggle with Realization that Cheerleading Outfits Might be “Sexually Suggestive”

A sports law story making the rounds involves the ability of Seminole County high school cheerleaders to wear their cheerleader outfits on game day. Not long ago, the county implemented a stronger dress code that required skirts to be longer than mid-thigh. This code also banned “sexually suggestive” clothing and appeared designed to stop the bare midriff, below-the-waist belt lines in fashion today. Then came the discovery that (NEWS FLASH!) cheerleading outfits have skirts shorter than the dress code allows. And, even worse, cheerleaders want to wear their outfits to school on game days. The principals of the various high schools put their heads together, and concluded that “spirit-building distraction is the intent of having the cheer squad wear outfits to school on game days.”

I can hear the boys of Seminole County now, breathing a sigh of relief that their principals have finally figured out exactly which girls should be allowed to wear short skirts to school to properly develop the boys’ school spirit. And it’s so good to be told that boys should stare at the cheerleaders to ensure the success of the school’s sports teams. Heaven forbid that they would ever stare for other reasons. And heaven forbid that any cheerleader would EVER wear her uniform to school for reasons other than school spirit.