This blog has reported before on the efforts of the NFL, both in 2007 and in 2008, to threaten churches that planned to hold Super Bowl viewing parties. The league claimed an infringement of its intellectual property rights.
As Tim and I explained in those past years, showing a broadcast of the game on a big-screen television “of a kind commonly used in private homes,” without charging admission, is almost surely allowed under the “homestyle exception” to copyright law. The trademark claim is even weaker, because simply holding a “Super Bowl viewing party” is a reference to the mark surely covered by various trademark fair use theories (notwithstanding their other flaws).
So, it’s no surprise that this year — wait, what’s this? STOP THE PRESSES! Ladies and gentlemen, can you believe it?!? The NFL now says that it will not stop churches from doing what the law allows and holding the parties. As Tim and this fellow IP blogger suggest, proposed legislation by Senator Specter may have played a role in the league’s change of heart. But my whole view of the universe is shifting nonetheless. The RIAA has stopped its lawsuits, iTunes has abandoned DRM, the TV networks now put episodes up online for free, and there is a pig sailing through the air outside my window.