Benjamin Appelbaum, Attorney at Law

NFL holds copyright of recording of first Super Bowl

With the hype that surrounds the Super Bowl each year, it is likely that many tuned in to watch the Broncos defeat the Panthers. It is likely that many who engaged in this activity did not give a second thought to being able to view portions, if not all of it, at a later date, as a result of the National Football League recording it. As it turns out, this was not always a foregone conclusion. The first Super Bowl, which took place 50 years ago, does not have a recording of that broadcast.

Another man does however. The man’s now deceased father recorded most of the broadcast on a Quadruplex taping machine. The recording was then left to languish in the attic for many years. Recently, the 47-year-old man made a deal to have the tapes restored. He was hoping to sell them the NFL for $1 million. While the league was interested in the tapes, it only wants to spend a much smaller amount to get them—$30,000. The owner of the tapes is not interested in selling for that amount.

You may think that the man will not have a problem finding another buyer for the tapes. After all, they are the only copy and must be in high demand. The reality however is the man cannot sell them to another party, or for that matter do much of anything with them, without potentially facing legal recourse. This is because the NFL owns a copyright to the material. More specifically it has “a property right in the game information.” As a result, the league is the only person or entity that can profit from the footage.

This situation is a good example of how complicated intellectual property matters can be. Because of this, in any copyright matter, it is a good idea to contact a lawyer.

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Benjamin Appelbaum, Attorney at Law - Intellectual Property

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