How to Host Legal Church Super Bowl Viewing Parties

As we look forward to the NFC and AFC championship games this weekend, many church leaders are planning dynamic “friendship evangelism” celebrations for Super Bowl LII on February 4, 2018, at the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN. Super Bowl viewing parties provide churches with a warm and dynamic evangelistic opportunity to reach out to their community. But what copyright issues should churches consider?

The good news is, churches can host Super Bowl parties without fear of penalties and interference from the NFL for copyright infringement–IF they stay within certain boundaries.

There are several elements of intellectual property rights involved in the Super Bowl, which falls under both Copyright and Trademark protection. This gives the National Football League (NFL) ownership of the rights to the text, images, photographs, video, audio, graphics, user interface, and other content provided on their services, and the selection, coordination, and arrangement of such content. This also gives them the rights to the product names, company names, trade names, logos, product packaging, and designs. Any non-official of the NFL who is advertising or transmitting any of this content is viable to infringement.

Thanks to concessions by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the NFL will not block religious organizations from hosting Super Bowl viewing parties. There are some important rules, however, to follow to sidestep possible copyright infringement.

CCS had a chance to speak with an NFL representative regarding the NFL’s policies for churches that want to host viewing parties.

CCS: “Many Churches enjoy gathering together to watch the Super Bowl each year, but they are unsure about necessary steps they must take in order to stay copyright compliant when doing so. What requirements must a church meet in order to host a “viewing party”?

NFL: “The NFL will not object when a church has a party for its congregants to watch the Super Bowl together if a church holds their “viewing party” in its usual place of worship and does not charge a fee for attending such viewing party. ”

A key point in the NFL’s response to churches is its allowance of a viewing party in its “usual place of worship”.  This is an important qualification to understand. We understand that many churches do not have a typical church campus and many use rented public spaces to conduct worship services. Here is the NFL’s position in these situations.

CCS: “Many churches that hold regular services meet in rented spaces (i.e. convention centers, hotel conference centers, movie theaters, and school auditoriums). Does your previously mentioned statement regarding “usual place of worship” also apply to churches in these situations?”

NFL: “No, the NFL’s grant of permission is with respect to the church property (not rented spaces).”

CCS: “We also understand that it is important for churches not to use registered trademarks of the NFL in any promotional materials, including via social media or their website concerning the viewing party. How can NFL trademarks be properly licensed for use?”

NFL: “If a church is only using NFL marks and no logos to describe the party in materials distributed to its congregants, the NFL will not object. For example, you can refer to the party as the Super Bowl party and you can refer to the two teams participating, but a church cannot use the NFL Shield, Super Bowl or Club logos.”

CCS: “Lastly, since the Super Bowl is on a Sunday evening, many churches may be unable to view the full game due to conflicts with established worship services. Could a church utilize a digital recording device to make a temporary copy of the game (such as a TiVo, DVR, etc.) so they could watch the game together in its entirety?

NFL: “Yes, the NFL will not object to this. Any additional uses outside the scope of the activities listed above would require permission and licensing from the NFL.”

If you have questions about this or any other copyright-related activity for your church, contact our copyright expert at 1-855-5SOLVER (576-5837). Or visit our website to access our learning center and download FREE fact sheets, blog, and other informative resources.

About Christian Copyright Solutions: CCS’s quest is to help churches and Christian ministries “do music right.”  CCS is an expert on church music copyrights and our primary focus is providing licensing and clear educational resources to churches, as well as representation, administration, and advocacy for copyright owners. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.