Demitria Doubenmier, a student in Jon Pfeiffer’s Fall 2014 Mass Communication Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the following essay in response to the prompt: “Watch Parties. Angela is known for hosting the best parties. Angela was planning for her annual Super Bowl Bash when she came up with an idea to help finance her party: she decided to charge people $10 to attend, which included food, drinks and a seat. Angela invites you to the party, but when she mentions the $10 admission price, you remember the copyright discussions from your Communications Law class. By charging to attend her Super Bowl Party, is Angela infringing on the NFL’s copyright? Knowing that she needs money to host the party, what advice would you give Angela?”
Angela is hosting a Super Bowl party and charging $10 for admission. Given that the National Football League has copyright rights for its product, Angela is committing a crime by making a profit based on the admission to a NFL Super Bowl party. After taking media law, I could intelligently enlighten my dear friend Angela to the world of copyright laws. I know that hosting a party can be a financial burden, so my first piece of advice would be ‘don’t plan a party you can’t afford.’ However, given the amount of debt the people of our culture are in, I know that spending beyond one’s means is commonplace, so I’ll resort to plan B.
The problem with Angela’s party is that she is forcing payment to a party using the NFL’s content and property as the focal point of the party. If Angela didn’t charge admission, but asked for a $10 donation for party supplies, then she wouldn’t be doing anything wrong. She should also refrain from calling the party a “Super Bowl Party.” If she sticks to something more generic like “Friends and Football,” she could avoid any sort of copyright infringement that the National Football League could possibly throw at her. The money would be going to food, snacks, drinks and decorations rather than becoming Angela’s income and the party focus is now on friends gathering to participate in watching (or maybe even playing) football. She isn’t profiting off of the party and is no longer tying the NFL’s property to the party; therefore, now she is not doing anything wrong. If anything, Angela is doing the NFL a favor by bringing together people to watch and support America’s favorite team sport and the NFL’s biggest game of the year.
Demitria Doubenmier is a senior at Pepperdine University majoring in Public Relations.
Jon Pfeiffer is an experienced entertainment and copyright trial attorney practicing in Santa Monica. Jon is also an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California where he teaches Media Law. COM 570 covers First Amendment issues as well as copyright, defamation and privacy.