Congress Wants To Separate Church And NFL From Copyright Laws

from the keep-'em-separated dept

Following a second year of stories about the NFL stopping churches from throwing Superbowl parties if they have TV screens larger than 55″, it appears that some folks in Congress are stepping up to create an exception in copyright law for “houses of worship.” For everyone else, the 55″ limit would prevail, but churches would now be allowed to show “The Big Game” without worrying about copyright infringement charges. It’s not clear why churches deserve an exemption to this law (or why the 55″ limit is in the law in the first place), but don’t expect that to stop politicians from jumping on a popular bandwagon issue.

Still, it’s fun to watch people who clearly have no understanding of what’s going on weigh in on the topic — sometimes in well known publications. Witness a columnist for the Boston Herald who is upset about the proposed change, but for the wrong reasons. First, he appears to not understand the difference between copyright and trademark, claiming that the NFL has to enforce its copyright or it will lose it (that would actually be trademark, but who’s fact checking?). He then goes on to state that “the copyrights are private property, and the league has every right within the law to profit from that property.” Indeed, but banning 55″ screens doesn’t prevent the NFL’s right to profit. In fact, this gets even more ridiculous when the guy says: “To have the government in effect confiscate that property to benefit religious institutions seems a very worrisome precedent.” Wait, and having the government in effect determine the maximum size of a private TV isn’t a worrisome precedent?

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Comments on “Congress Wants To Separate Church And NFL From Copyright Laws”

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Ron (profile) says:

Churches ...

… do not deserve an exemption. The laws in the US embody a separation of church and state. The original intent was to prohibit the institution of a state religion. But, the courts have also weighed in to remove religious displays from public property. Giving religious groups execmption from a law places the government in the position of supporting those religious organizations. I know that the religion thing as a platform plank for the political parties but we would all be better served if the politicians would instead try to understand the actual facts and fix the actual problems rather than to apply one more bandage to a dam already bursting at the seams.

But, if the government goes ahead of this I do predict that many new houses of worship will pop up in places like the homes of fans, community houses, etc.

rm says:

Re: Re: Re: Churches ...

huh? Come on. Any elementry school history book will tell you religious freedom from the government was one of the intents of the constitution. It was to protect us from the government.

You think the government needs protected from us? Funny.

take the freedoms and rights away from us zealots and who do you think the government will go after next? Probably you.. the protections are meant for believers and non believers alike

RM says:

Re: Churches ...

What specific law states a seperation of church and state? That is a myth which, unfortunately, has been upheld by the courts. There is no seperation of church and state in the constitution. The constitution clearly gives all people the right to have their own religious beliefs, including people who work for the government. The establishment clause was intended to prevent the government from telling you what to believe, how to worship or even not to worship. It was never intended to suppress religious practices, as it is used to do today. Study the history of the constitution and you will see I am right.

It also gives people freedom not to participate in religious activities. It was never intended to curb religious activities, which unfortunately is happening all too much.

Anyway back to the topic of the article…

Passing such a law would not run afoul of the constitution as long as it included all houses of worship for all religions. The government is not favoring one religion over the others. Churches and houses of worship already enjoy many benifits, primairly tax benifits.

An idea that would make it a better law and would also not exclude those who do not wish to socialize in a house of worship would be to make the exemption valid for all non-profit orginazitions.

BTW… private homes are already exempt. You and I and all our many friends can sit in our living rooms and watch the superbowl on any size TV with no consequenses. The law is about “public” showings, not private homes.

Iron Chef says:

Off of the top of my head...

We’re too loose with the definition of “Religion” today, and it just complicates things.

The original issue, I believe was when Commercial Theaters decided to start showing the game and charging admission. First consider removing the 55″ restriction altogether. In the day of 200″ projections, it’s silly.

If the goal is to prevent commerce, maybe look at the commerce valuechain a commercial theater has, and provide incentive to remove the commercial aspects in such a way that if they occur, make it a very unattractive activity.

Outcome 1 – Non Commercial Use:

Admission and all gross reciepts (including food) must = 0. This yields you a Non Commercial License if it's less than 50 people.

Over 50 people? or want to charge admission? Great!
Outcome 2 – Commercial Use:

Require theater to charge a movie-ticket price and send the entire gross receipts to the content owner. An example would be to collect ticket revenue. Also add a "overhead" fee per screen, not to exceed $300. (Because Content Owners need to hire people to count the money)

Additionally, define “Ticket Revenue” as “Regular Matinee prices”

David Hammond (profile) says:

Establishment of religion

If you look at the writings of the likes of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, it’s quite clear that the First Amendment was intended not just to prevent the establishment of a state church, but to prevent congress from passing any law which respects anything on the basis of religion. Thomas Jefferson himself described this as a “wall of separation between church and state,” and James Madison frequently cited “the danger of a direct mixture of religion and civil government,” insisting that “Religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”

The First Amendment does not say, “Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of a state religion,” as so many people seem to interpret it. It says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” A church is an example of an establishment of religion, and so congress has no right to give special respect to churches.

RM says:

Re: Establishment of religion

You make good sense and I actually agree with you. But reality is churches already get special treatment.

Where I have the problem is how the establishment clause is used to curb my religious beliefs and activities.

One example is political speach. Churches risk loosing their tax exempt status if they take a political position, yet some religions require certian positions on certian issues. No other organizations face that threat.

Another example is prayer. I can not pray aloud in government buildings. My beliefs are restricted. I understand I should not be allowed to make others pray if they choose not to, but where in this establishment clause does it say that i, a private citizen, should endure the government restricting my religious beliefs?

As I agree congress has no right to give special respect to churches, they also have no right to have special restrictions placed on churches and individuals practicing their religion.

Mike says:

Maximum size?

Hmm.. so 55″ is the limit. I wonder what happens if I have four 50″ screens set up in a mosaic display. Do I get in trouble because it is essentially a 100″ screen, or is it fine because none of the screens are larger than 55″?

This has got to be one of the stupidest rules I have ever heard of. Especially considering the prices of larger screen sizes keep falling rapidly.

Iron Chef says:

Re: Maximum size?

Link below…

The law that defines “Public Performance” is USC 17.110(5)(B)(i)(II) and dates back to 1975, and specifically qualifies “public performance” as being viewed on a television size of 55 inches or larger.

Again, the law is somewhat archaic- being written in 1975 when the cost of a 56″ television was simply outside of the grasp of the general public.

I would imagine it would be in the public’s best interest to revisit USC 17.110(5)(B)(i)(II).

It’s post #67 Here

BTR1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Maximum size?

> The law specifically qualifies “public performance”
> as being viewed on a television size of 55
> inches or larger.

Yes, but how does the law define “television”? My 60″ plasma is not a television in the traditional sense. It’s essentially a huge computer monitor. For example, it has no ability to produce sound of its own, like a standard television does.

And what about projectors? If I have a projector suspended from my ceiling, projecting an image onto a blank wall, well, that’s hardly a “television” as the term was understood in 1975, now is it?

That Guy says:

Where is the "free" argument

I was a little disappointed Mike that you didn’t bring up your “free” argument, because I think in this case its the BEST example for the situation.

The superbowl is not a pay per view event. The superbowl is not broadcast over a paid premium channel such as ESPN. It’s broadcast over the “free” airwaves.

The only revenue model the NFL has for the superbowl is advertising and sponsorship sales. One would assume that a church would guarantee having a set of dedicated viewers for the event which would only help improve viewership, and thus help drive ad revenue.

The real argument here isn’t about the NFL’s copyright of the broadcast, or even the argument of the separation of church and state, the real argument is what right does the Federal Government have in restricting the means of display or the physical venues used for free over the air broadcast television on the behalf of a content creator.

MuttonMan says:

That Guy I see your point. If the object is to get as many eyeballs as humanly possible in front of your ads, why inhibit people?

I fully understand that if churches are charging admission for it that could cause an issue but seriously why the heckstick is there a problem with bringing more people to the ads?

I heard in 2006 that a church was sued for using Superbowl in their church bulletin. I don’t know if there is any truth to that but it’s just silly if it was true.

zcat says:

All about ratings...

Someone previously suggested that it was all about neilsen ratings.. apparently having 100 families of five at home watching TV is somehow ‘better’ than having the same 500 people at church watching together on one TV.

That sounds like bullshit to me, but assuming that it’s true I still don’t get why this is even a copyright issue.

Copyright doesn’t mean you get the right to manipulate viewership numbers in your favor. Copyright doesn’t even mean you have some automatic right to any audience! That should be the real issue here.

Iron Chef says:

Re: All about ratings...

Unless something changed, when your a “Nielsen Family” you know your a “Nielsen Family” because they stop by and install a box in your house to your TV.

Again, unless something dramatically changed, it’s still driven by statistical averages, and the Ratings piece is a non-issue unless you, knowlingly as a Nielsen Family, don’t report your viewership when you do view it.

When I did the Arbitron ratings, they had a triage process, While not totally sure, I imagine Nielsen has something similar in place…

Questionable says:

A little Whine with that NFL brand cheese......

I have only been watching the superbowl as a social event. Meaning I go to a friends house, have some food and drink watch the game (on a 60+” TV) while having some good conversation and blowing off steam. If that was not the case, the superbowl would never make it on the tube at home.

I have to believe there are more people like me than not. If your team is not in the game who cares, really.

Duuuuhhhhhhhhh...... says:

Can I make a point here?

You all can beat anything into the ground. Want the easy;

N*F*L = Corrupt cuban smoking scrooges =


Buy our damn cable boxes and pay us every month!!!



Everybody must have the box.


(OH – but you didn’t hear me say the n f l word)

Steve Lowe says:

Copyrighting the NFL and game parties

This stupid fight over copyrights has finally gone to far. Does this mean, that if Congress passes this law, people can no longer have a party at their home if they have a TV larger than 55-inches. It would seem that the NFL has lost sight of what it once wanted people to do, and that was to watch their games. With new digital TVs getting larger will the copyright idots now want anyone with a large set to have to file some form of paper work to get permission to even watch the TV sets that they have purchased. Maybe what NFL fans should do is send a BIG message to the NFL. Send letters, emails, don’t go to the games and finally turn off the TV sets. I wonder what they would do when their rateings went from the top of the list to the bottom of the list. Heck, let’s turn them off for at least one season and see what their actions would be, turn off the network games and DO NOT SUBSCRIBE to NFL TV. One season might turn there thinking around.

That Guy says:

This and That

Nielson’s Ratings – It would seem to me that if the NFL is truly worried about losing “head counts” on viewers to “untrackable” church viewers, that it could easily overcome that by embracing and leveraging churches as marketing devices. The NFL could build a web ap that has invite tools, food and supply checklists, throw in some sponsor promotions for food and drinks and WHAM, you got yourself an online headcount, plus a list of email addresses to spam with NFL and NFL marketing partner emails.

Separation of Church and State – Actually both are correct. The separation was meant to ensure that Church leadership never superseded the establish government, AND it was meant to ensure that the government could never impeded the religious freedoms of its people. Most of this stemmed from the blurring of the lines with the Church of England and the Monarchy based goverment that England embraced at the time.

Rules – I guess I’m still at a loss about how “free” over the air broadcasts can carry different viewing rules based on the originator of the content. It should be a one size fits all rule for “free” broadcasting. Now if I’m paying for the rights to a broadcast like I do with Cable, then I can totally recognize that I’m entering into a level of contractual obligation by paying for a product.

Using the NFL logic it seems like I could purchase prime time air time to run my own show. I could then leverage the 55″ federal law, and file suit on every single American home with a TV larger then 55 inches who watched my show. Seems like quite the money maker for a litigious lawyer with a little ambition.

John (profile) says:

Form your own religion

This is similar to what “random” said: if you want to have a Super Bowl party on a 60″ TV, then the best thing to do is start your own religion.
Just put a bible on a table in the back of the room, call yourself the “First Church of The Big Game” and you’re all set. If the government tries to harass you, just claim “freedom of religion”!

Thatguy says:

Re:Establishment of religion


I have to clarify your point about political speach. Churches can talk about political issues all they want. The restriction is limited to specifically backing a candidate. You can talk about the issues that are important to your church from the pulpit, and you can even encourage people to vote based on those issues. You just can’t say “candidate X, who holds our values, is who we should vote for.”

scaffolding (user link) says:

Totally ‘WOW’ed by Nelson

One of the best things about road trips is the ability to be completely spontaneous. While Holly, Amanda and I tried to stick to a tight schedule in order to fit in all the main South Island molded plastic part stops, an impromptu detour to the quaint and lovable city of Nelson reminded us that veering off course can sometimes be more fun. Ironically, what landed us in this town of eternal sunshine (seriously, Nelson holds the country’s record for the most clear days), was a sudden case of stormy weather. We had signed up for a 2-day hike/kayak trip in the nearby Abel Tasman National Park, but were greeted by a torrential downpour before we had a chance to step foot on the trail. As inclement conditions were considered rare in these parts, the tour guide suggested we hunker down for the night and try again the next day. Slightly bored by the string of one horse towns that fringed the National Park (or half horse towns as we liked to joke; we’re so funny!), the girls and I decided to make the 45 minute drive to Nelson to experience the lively China printing arts, entertainment and coffee house culture that the city was so well known for. Little did we know just how lively the town’s art really was!

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