Six Tips from a Lawyer in Case You Want to Throw a Super Bowl Party:
(1) Be Careful How You Promote Your Party or Business
The term “Super Bowl” is a registered trademark owned by the National Football League, as are “Super Sunday,” and similar terms. Copyright law grants copyright owners such as the NFL a right not only over making copies of the game, but also over “public performances” of the work. So, whether you are throwing a party or trying to use the big game in a business pursuit, brands that aren’t willing to pay the big bucks to use the term have to come up with sometimes strange alternatives instead… big game, football championship, etc. Look at major companies on Twitter. Mist are deathly afraid to utter “Super Bowl” as other have paid millions for that privilege.
The NFL stands behind Section 110 of the Copyright law – entitled “Limitations on exclusive rights: exemption of certain performances and displays.” Within that section, there are a number of copyright restrictions related to using big screen televisions and projector screens. There are also several exemptions to those restrictions. If you are watching from home, even with some friends, as long as you aren’t charging, you won’t be hearing from the NFL’s legal team.
Further, Section 110(5)(A) provides that, “except as provided in subparagraph (B),” the following does not violate the public performance right:
the public reception of [a] transmission on a single receiving apparatus of a kind commonly used in private homes, unless–
(i) a direct charge is made to see or hear the transmission; or
(ii) the transmission thus received is further transmitted to the public.
Viewing the Super Bowl in a private residence is obviously legal and appropriate. You are also in the clear to request friends bring food and drink in exchange for hosting. You can even charge your buddies money for buying beer in order to watch at your house. However, if you rent a big screen, charge people an entrance fee to your “Super Bowl Party” and desire to make some money, the NFL will be looking for you on social media and send you cease and desist letters. They did it to a Church in 2007 and have done it every year since. It’s serious business because they have to protect their mark to keeping making millions of dollars in advertising and sponsorship dollars.
Americans will spend at least $4.2 billion betting on the Super Bowl this year according to the American Gaming Assn., a casino trade group. Most of it will be illegal. While people can bet on the internet, it is not regulated and always carries some risk. Police don’t enforce the law against bettors, but if you don’t get paid, it will be equally difficult getting money out of a foreign shell company.
As for what commonly occurs in someone’s home or office, you won’t see law enforcement knocking down doors or raiding homes because of friends entering $50 square game or office pool. And your bet between you and your buddy from North Carolina is probably not going to be the subject of a warrant. Just be smart and keep it small and off the internet.
(3) Premises Liability – Falls, Alcohol and Fights
We have handled a case where a guest was brutally assaulted in someone’s home by another guest at a big party. Alcohol brings liability. Testosterone does, too. Mix the two and you will see arrests, fights and lawsuits arising from people engaging in “excessive celebration” or “personal fouls”.
The exposure to the host for serving alcohol varies by state. The general rule is be cautious of open bar and especially with allowing people to drive home if you’ve had an open bar. If someone has a tendency to be violent and you know that, you may want to keep them off of your invite list. If you have a stair that keeps collapsing and you haven’t fixed it, you may want to rope off that area. You must act reasonably to ensure the general safety of your guests and, if alcohol is involved, possibly the general public they encounter after your party.
One day insurance policies are often fairly cheap and are smart to consider if you don’t already have liability insurance.
(4) Food Safety / Food Poisoning
With more than a billion chicken wings and five million pizzas expected to be eaten during the big game, there are plenty of opportunities for a food safety penalty to occur. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) issued these tips.
- Clean: Clean kitchen surfaces, utensils, and hands often with soap and water while preparing party food.
- Separate: Separate raw meats from other foods by using different cutting boards.
- Cook: Cook foods to the right temperature by using a food thermometer.
- Chill: Chill raw and prepared foods promptly—don’t leave food at room temperature for longer than two hours.
A bad case of food poisoning can not only ruin a party, but if the person has to seek medical treatment or is sick for a prolonged period of time, they can sue. We often get calls from people who have been in the hospital for a week because of food-borne illness. Don’t risk it- clean, separate, cook and chill. Or order out.
(5) DUI- Driving Under the Influence
The National Highway Traffic Safety Association has a campaign around Super Bowl 50 to prevent drunk driving running from February 1-7, 2016. Not only are they concerned about DUIs, but the traffic crashes that come along with them.
You have heard it all before. Get a designated driver, call a cab or an uber or call one of the “tow to go” type services.
(6) Super Bowl Ticket Fraud / Counterfeiting
In 2002, some friends and I attended Maxim’s Super Bowl Party. One problem- half of our group’s tickets were counterfeit. Darren Rovell of ESPN did a story on it and we got some attention and we wound up talking our way in, but in most circumstances the ticket holder bears the loss for buying fake tickets.
These days, it is even easier as sometimes a ticket is just a piece of paper. A fraudulent ticket seller could simply sell the same ticket over and over again and only the first person to have that bar code scanned would get in. Be careful and buy from reputable sources. Get and confirm contact information from the ticket seller.
Here is a video version of our tips:
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