The NFL Threatens to Sue Churches
By Raul Rivera
A church Super Bowl party
A church in Indianapolis decided to have a Super Bowl party during which they wanted to project the game on a large screen. With an expectation of more than a 1,000 people in attendance, the pastor felt that it would be a great tool for sharing the gospel and promoting the church. After publishing it on their website, they received a letter from the NFL stating they were in violation of copyright law and were prohibited from projecting the Super Bowl on the large screen. Did the NFL have the right to prohibit a large screen Super Bowl party? Was the church breaking the law if they disregarded the NFL's letter and showed it on the big screen? Can a church be sued by the NFL for such parties?
The law on copyrighted football games
What does a church do?
What does a church do? The Indianapolis church pastor announced to his church that the Super Bowl party was a way for them to reach out to the community and that the NFL should not be allowed to stop it. Following are some thoughts that may help to answer this dilemma. First, we need to know that this type of copyright violation could cost the church over $100,000.00 in fines. Secondly, if we better understand how the NFL and TV contracts work, we will see why the NFL makes attempts to limit mass Super Bowl parties. The NFL has contracts with TV networks and the value of those contracts is based on the Nielsen ratings. The Nielson ratings do not count out of home viewing. So, to maximize their ratings, the NFL has a term of use that any out of home viewing on a screen larger than 55 inches is prohibited, except for bars and restaurants. When thousands and thousands of church Super Bowl parties are held, in the name of reaching souls, the NFL takes a big hit in its Nielson ratings, which lowers the value of the NFL's contract.
Today's laws are complex and many churches large and small will suffer consequences! Many sports, music, movie and television distributors of electronic intellectual property have set up monitors to catch illegal use of their electronic property. Whether it's the IRS, the state, or some other entity, we need to be diligent to ensure that we properly run our ministries.
Have you ever wondered about copyright law?
Whether it's an intellectual propertry agreement between the pastor and the church, music used in praise and worship, or any book written or sermon preached by the pastor or staff member, how do you know who is the legal owner? Let us teach you at one of our conferences. Our new and improved conference manual covers many new topics and updates, as well as over 300 additional pages of Interenet linked forms and resources.