The NFL's copyright statement for today's big game, and presumably for other football games, contains language like "Any other use of this telecast or any pictures, descriptions, or accounts of the game without the NFL's consent is prohibited".

How can they prohibit someone from making their own "descriptions or accounts" (or, indeed, their own pictures - if someone brings a camera phone into the audience they may be violating some stadium policy, but they're not violating copyright) under copyright law?

  • 7
    I have a strong feeling they can't, at least to the absolute extent. But are you able to afford the lawyers you would need to defend it?
    – user4657
    Feb 6, 2017 at 2:57
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    But as with a lot of subjects, some areas of copyright law has been determined by prior cases. No lawyer money, no case. No case, no precedent. No precedent, no way to say for sure. Unless there are somehow cases that got far enough on this kind of subject, that would be good to see.
    – user4657
    Feb 6, 2017 at 3:07
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    What are the terms and conditions of the ticket (or employment) that anyone who can physically take a picture of the game (except maybe a blimp passenger) bound by?
    – user662852
    Dec 17, 2017 at 14:16

1 Answer 1


The NFL cannot use copyright as a basis for preventing independently made recordings, "descriptions or accounts", but can prevent usage of their own such items.

The case National Basketball Association v. Motorola [wiki, full text] contains a concise summary of the law on this issue:

[29] [...] The House Report also makes clear that it is the broadcast, not the underlying game, that is the subject of copyright protection. In explaining how game broadcasts meet the Act's requirement that the subject matter be an "original work[] of authorship," 17 U.S.C. § 102(a), the House Report stated:

[30] When a football game is being covered by four television cameras, with a director guiding the activities of the four cameramen and choosing which of their electronic images are sent out to the public and in what order, there is little doubt that what the cameramen and the director are doing constitutes "authorship."

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