Guam Super Bowl parties may violate National Football League rules and breach U.S. copyright.
Super Bowl parties or any events which show NFL games are in violation of NFL rules if admission is charged or if the game is shown on a television screen larger than 55 inches.
A Journal reader and expert "" resident in the U.S. "" brought the issue to the attention of the Journal. He said that in his opinion Guam businesses may have a shaky legal defense on an issue that has drawn wide attention in the U.S. mainland.
Gregory "Greg" Aiello vice president of public relations for the National Football League; told the Journal "Our rules prohibit using our telecasts to create another commercial event. Specifically that means no use of large-screen (55 inches or more) television sets or charging admissions by establishments or organizations to show our games including the Super Bowl."
Aiello said sports bars are exempt based on the fact that their normal business operations involve the use of TV sets to show televised sporting events every day of the year that they are open. "They are not creating a new event by showing the Super Bowl."
The Super Bowl is celebrated not only in private homes on Guam but at the island’s hospitality venues on a day many take off school and work to watch professional football’s biggest game.
The Journal surveyed nine of the organizations that on Feb. 4 charged admission to watch the game or showed the game on a screen that was larger than 55 inches. The list included hotels restaurants and bars.
"¢ The Hilton Guam Resort & Spa charged $15 for tickets to its event and $20 at the door. More than 300 people attended the event which showed the game on several 9-by-9-foot projection screens.
"¢ The Guam Reef Hotel charged an admission fee of $30 plus a service charge. About 20 people attended its showing.
"¢ Planet Hollywood charged $40 for admission and showed the game on 10-by-10-foot big screen televisions "" the largest of which was 10 by 10 feet. This was the 9th annual Super Bowl Party that Planet Hollywood held and more than 100 people attended it.
"¢ The Pacific Trading Club charged a $15 admission with about 70 people in attendance. The game was shown on a 5-by-5-foot projection screen.
"¢ Round Up charged a $35 admission fee.
"¢ The Hyatt Regency Guam held events in all of its ballrooms and at TJ’s. Admission to TJ’s was $25 and a $20 admission was charged for the showing in the ballrooms. More than 800 people attended the Hyatt events.
"¢ The House of Brutus did not charge admission but showed the game on a 64-inch TV with about 75 people in attendance.
"¢ Marty’s Tex-Mex did not charge admission but showed the game on a 64-inch television with about 30 people in attendance.
"¢ The American Legion Mid Pacific Post No. 1 did not charge admission but the show was viewed by about 60 people on a 62-inch television screen.
"¢ The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1590 displayed the game on a 61-inch television.
Mainland media reports are full of stories about the NFL requesting different organizations including churches to "cease and desist" such Super Bowl parties.
In Indianapolis the NFL demanded that a church cancel a planned party. Several churches in Florida also canceled their Super Bowl parties after hearing about what happened in Indianapolis.
"If we learn about violations of our rules we will follow up and request compliance. If necessary we will take legal action against violators " Aiello said.
Richard G. Rennie general manager of the Royal Orchid Guam and chairman of the Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association; told the Journal that he didn’t know all of the legalities but said it was possible that customers weren’t paying to watch the game rather they were paying for the food and beverages the establishments served. "We will bring it to the attention of the association so that our members are mindful of the copyright and ensure that they have the proper authorization."
Mary P. Torre president of the Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association; said "I’m not aware of the specifics regarding that. I do know that when different venues have those re-broadcasts it’s usually in part with TV stations. You would think that TV stations have certain rights to rebroadcast those shows. "¦ I’m not familiar with the rules and regulations regarding taping or re-broadcasting of those shows."
Torre said it’s the responsibility of the sponsors to work with the TV stations to ensure they have the appropriate right to air the game.
Brian McCarthy spokesman for the NFL; told the Journal "It’s a long-standing policy that goes back to the 1960s. It’s not only NFL policy but it’s also U.S. copyright law."
McCarthy discussed actions the NFL would normally take on the mainland but said he would have to do more research into how it relates to Guam.
"The one area I would want to find out a little about from our legal department is as it relates to showing the game to a mass audience outside of what we would consider the direct 50 United States. I personally don’t know as it relates to a territory " McCarthy said.
McCarthy said that the policy is normally applied to establishments that do not show sporting events regularly.
If a Super Bowl party is sponsored by a third party at a hotel then both the hotel and the third party would be in violation of NFL policy McCarthy said.
"We would probably go after both "¦ The general rule is if a hotel property doesn’t normally show a sporting event in a sports bar or in its restaurant then it would not legally be able to show a regular season game let alone the Super Bowl in its establishment. If it’s bringing in "" in a giant ballroom "" large screen TVs for the sole purpose of showing the Super Bowl and the next morning it’s back to a ballroom with 400 chairs and no TV then that is something we would look into. If the hotel or sponsor used the trademark the name the logo "˜Super Bowl’ to entice people to come to that particular event then that would be something our trademark lawyer would look into."
Timothy Roberts a partner in the law firm of Dooley Roberts & Fowler LLP; told the Journal "In the mainland the NFL’s lawyers have taken the position that when a business uses the word "˜Super Bowl’ or "˜NFL’ in connection with Super Bowl parties particularly where the games are carried on screens bigger than 55 inches it constitutes an unlawful use of the NFL’s trademarks for commercial gain."
He said that some mainland lawyers think the NFL is going too far. According to Roberts one of the main purposes of trademark laws is to protect the trademark owner from public confusion over whether a company has a business relationship with the trademark owner.
"But if Joe’s Bar & Grill wants to have a Super Bowl party and carry the game on its 60-inch plasma TV " Roberts said "Not many people are going to assume Joe has a business relationship with the NFL or with the Super Bowl."
Roberts went on to say "If you’re a business owner on Guam and you want to hold a Super Bowl party on a big screen TV adding the words "˜not affiliated with the NFL’ might give you some additional protection in the unlikely event the NFL ever comes after you."
He added that while there are both federal and local trademark laws there hasn’t been much copyright litigation in the 23 years he’s been practicing on Guam. MBJ