Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal


Sonali Chitre


Copyright is critical to protecting sports broadcasts, and new technology has evolved to disseminate these broadcasts to the many people that enjoy professional sports. Because of new digital rights in the copyright statute, the NFL has very strong copyright protections that cover Internet, satellite, television, and radio licensing of its broadcasts. A "blackout" blocks certain programs from being broadcast in a particular market. Attempting to incentivize fans to come to football games, the NFL "blacks out" games that are not sold out within seventytwo hours of game time within a seventy-five-mile radius of the stadium. The "blackout rule" has been widely cirtized by professional sports fans. Many fans do not use the NFL's authorized tools to watch games, but instead use Internet streaming and other technology to watch the live games within the blacked-out area. Thus, the NFL "blackout rule" may actually decrease rather than increase the value of the broadcasts.

This article analyzes the NFL's "blackout" rule in the context of growing technology and increased copyright protection. The "blackout" rule should be reevaluated as it may not be the best way to keep fans engaged or allow the NFL to generate maximum revenue from licensing its copyrighted broadcasts.