The NFL is notorious for filing complaints and alleging copyright infringement, especially during football season. The one event they crack down on the most is, of course, the Super Bowl, as it tends to create a huge market for unauthorized distribution and trademark infringement on many things synonomous with the Super Bowl itself. The NFL holds the property rights to all phrases relating to the Super Bowl, and enforces very strict rules about which ones may not be legally broadcast by marketers and promoters not authorized by the NFL; for example:
Summary of Use of Trademarks [In Marketing & Promotions]
You cannot say or print:
* “Super Bowl”
* “Super Sunday”
* The Super Bowl logo
* “NFL”, “AFC”, or “NFC”
* “National Football League”
* “American Football Conference”
* ‘National Football Conference”
* Any team name (e.g., “Buccaneers") or nickname ("Bucs")
You CAN say or print:
*"The Big Game in (host city, i.e. Hosuton)"
*"The Professional Football Championship Game in Houston"
*The date of the game
*The names of the cities of the teams competing in the Super Bowl (i.e. New England v. Carolina), but NOT the team names themselves (i.e. Patriots v. Panthers)
*You can make fun of the fact that you cannot say the phrase "Super Bowl" by bleeping it out
Ok, now that the NFL has established those rules, here is their justification. They have a property interest in all descriptions and accounts of the Super Bowl, and they make money by selling these rights to television and radio stations, authorizing them to broadcast the Super Bowl using any of the phrases from the first list as often or as much as they want. The NFL created the Super Bowl, choses its venues and controls the distribution and dissemination of all related material with the understanding that they also have the right to control this distribution for a certain period of time after the Super Bowl. All tickets are printed with the disclaimer that no one inside the stadium can give accounts or descriptions of the game to media without press credentials. This means that your radio or TV station needs to obtain press credentials before the Super Bowl, you can't report or comment on the game while it is going on. Your only legal option is to report on the "news" of the game after its over (who won and what was the score).
As mentioned earlier, the NFL has a reputation for enforcing their IP rights very strictly against any infringers. Courts have typically sided with the NFL, holding that since they own the copyright to the telecast, they have the right to charge a fee to anyone who wants to use game highlights. Again, this means a TV or radio station needs to pay this fee prior to the Super Bowl to have the right to use highlights of the game and halftime show on their own broadcast.
But it doesn't end there....
The NFL actually cracked down on Vegas hotels this past January, forcing them to cancel their Super Bowl parties because their TV's were too big! Hotels were told that these parties were "unauthorized use of NFL Intellectual Property." The Aladdin Hotel, for instance, usually shows the game in a 7,000 seat theater - the NFL told them they need to get a bunch of smaller TV's and put them around the casion, but putting 7,000 people in front of one giant TV is a violation of their telecast copyright. This move stirred up a lot of controversy from fans who traveled to Vegas to watch the game, adding to the NFL's already greedy, money-hungry image. However obscure this Vegas argument may seem, there are some valid points underlying the NFL's argument. It will be interesting to see what this year's Super Bowl brings...