Abstract: As the highest grossing sports league in the world, the National Football League (NFL) operates with expansive and unprecedented reach. Each Super Bowl broadcast from 2010 to 2016 ranks as one of the seven most viewed programs in American television history and Sunday Night Football was the most watched weekly program in four of the past five years. Unsurprisingly, the NFL is intent on protecting their immensely popular product through aggressive intellectual property protections, though few are as pervasive as the telecast warning that accompanies every NFL game: “This telecast is copyrighted by NFL Productions for the private use of our audience. Any other use of this telecast or any pictures, descriptions, or accounts of the game without the NFL’s consent is prohibited.” Does the NFL’s copyright warning truly preclude fans from talking about a game with coworkers or from posting about it on their social media pages? How far does it extend? Given recent coverage by outlets such as ESPN in October 2016, there are indications that the NFL’s aggressive copyright tactics extend to its franchise teams as well. According to sourced league memoranda, the NFL has prohibited its Member Clubs from shooting or streaming video inside the stadium during a game and posting it on any form of social media, punishable by an initial fine of $25,000 and up to $100,000 for additional offenses.6 Further, teams are prohibited from taking video from broadcasts and creating their own highlights or moving images, including Graphics Interchange Format images (popularly known as GIFs). Essentially, the NFL has severely limited a Member Club’s ability to use media content its organization had an essential role in creating and, debatably, authoring.
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