Super Bowl copyright infringement is something that churches across the country should keep in mind if they’re planning to host a Super Bowl viewing party this Sunday. Copyrights are not typically on a church’s party planning list, but the NFL would like it to be at least somewhere in your top five.
According to copyrightcommunity.net, Super Bowl Sunday is actually one of the biggest evangelism opportunities of the year for churches across the country. Christiancopyrightsolutions.com calls it one of the best chances to engage in “friendship evangelism.” Before the big game and the big group gets together, let’s talk about what you need to know.
At this point, a logical question might be, “Why are you bringing this up, and what do I care?” If your train of thought is running down those tracks, it’s important to understand just how seriously the NFL takes its copyrights.
Copyrightcommunity.net said back in 2007, an Indiana church planned to host a Super Bowl viewing party, and publicized the event on it’s website. The NFL spotted the plans and overnighted a letter to the Fall Creek Baptist Church, demanding that the church cancel the party. The NFL’s actions led to a number of churches around the country canceling their Super Bowl viewing events.
The NFL continued to alert churches to the possibility of copyright violations into 2008. It took bipartisan legal action by Congress to bring the conflict to something resembling a resolution. Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch and Democrat Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania brandished legal action that finally brought a positive response from Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL.
In a letter to Senator Hatch after the ’08 Super Bowl, Commissioner Roger Goodell said the NFL would no longer object to “live showings, regardless of screen size, of the Super Bowl,” by religious organizations. The conditions are that admission can’t be charged to the event, and the showing should be on the premises that the church uses on a “routine and customary basis.”
Brandon Ganz is the Pastor of Administration for Christ Community Church, which serves over 3,000 people, in Rochester, Minnesota. He recently sent out an email to ministry groups in the church about not “using the term Super Bowl, or team logos and names, in any of our publications or on our church website.” Ganz said there have been churches that don’t worry about the copyright law, thinking that “it’s for the greater good, but they still wind up breaking the law.” As Pastor of Administration, he said one of his tasks includes keeping up to date on potential copyright violations, as the laws continue to get more complex.
According to guideone.com, there are a few things for churches to keep in mind, which will help them stay on the right side of the NFL:
- The game must be shown live on equipment you use for your ministry. It can’t be a recording.
- Don’t charge admission to the event. You can ask for donations to help defray the costs of the event.
- To avoid any copyright infringements, avoid calling it a “Super Bowl Party.” Pick a version of the “Big Game,” or something similar. Do not use any of the NFL trademarks or intellectual property. This includes using the terms Super Bowl and NFL, plus don’t use team names or logos. The towns where teams are located are fine.
The internet has broadened a church’s reach and influence in society, but because of copyright law, it’s also means churches have to be more careful about what they post and publish on their websites and their publications too.