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Thread: NFL blackouts and Tampa Bay bars, potential legal trouble.

  1. #1
    Senior Member Array HighwayChild's Avatar
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    Aug 2010

    Default NFL blackouts and Tampa Bay bars, potential legal trouble.

    I came across this on ESPN and am wondering if anyone here is familiar with the laws regarding this, and what people think about it. Should the bars be fined? Does "fair use" of the internet apply for the bar owners and should the websites be held responsible? I don't know, but I do hate the whole blackout rule and feel sorry for the Bucs (and Jaguars) fans. Also, I'm a Panthers fan and I'm afraid we might start seeing blackouts this year at some point.

    here is the article, copied and pasted, here is the url; NFL IDs bars warned about showing blacked-out Bucs games

    "TAMPA - Managers of a Beef O'Brady's in Palm Harbor wanted to cheer up football fans bummed about blacked-out Tampa Bay Buccaneers games.

    So they hooked up a laptop, found a live video feed on the Internet showing the Bucs' matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers and projected it on a wall.

    "We're just trying to keep our customers happy," Jerry Handle, kitchen manager of the Beef O'Brady's said. "It stinks Tampa Bay fans can't watch the game."

    And if more Bucs home games don't sell out and aren't shown on local television, the regulars at Handle's restaurant will again be in the dark.

    The Palm Harbor establishment is one of eight businesses NFL officials said infringed on the league's television copyrights by showing Sunday's blacked-out game.

    The bars started receiving letters from the NFL on Wednesday, warning them to stop or face a fine of $150,000 each time an unauthorized telecast was shown to patrons.

    League officials identified the businesses today. They include O'Brien's Irish Pub & Grill in Carrollwood, Oakhurst Tavern in Seminole, Fuzzy's Sports& Grill in Clearwater, and The Distillery and Rasher Tierney's, both in Bradenton.

    Brooker Creek Golf Club and Tarpon Woods Country Club in Palm Harbor also received letters, but share the same address, 1100 Tarpon Woods Blvd., as the Beef O'Brady's where Handle works.

    Handle said his business, not the country clubs, was the only one that showed the game. He said the restaurant will comply with the NFL's cease-and-desist letter, but added he wished the league would lighten up on fans who can't afford tickets to watch games at Raymond James Stadium.

    NFL spokesman Dan Masonson said his office learned of the unauthorized broadcasts through bar owners who had complied with the blackout rules and were upset at restaurants that showed the game.

    The NFL requires that home games be sold out 72 hours before kickoff in order to be shown on local television channels.

    Other businesses across the country that have received warnings in the past usually comply and "there are no further infringement issues," Masonson said.

    Terri Ellison, a bartender at Rasher Tierney's, said her restaurant did not show the game to patrons, but received the warning from the NFL. One customer came in and watched the Bucs' blacked-out game on his laptop, she said.

    "He was using our Wi-Fi," Ellison said. "I don't know how the NFL found out. Maybe some tracking thing through the Internet? I don't know."

    Ellison said her boss has yet to talk to the NFL about the letter.

    Dave Makai, a bartender at The Distillery, said he doesn't understand why his bar got a warning because it didn't show any blacked-out games.

    "We guarantee we did not do it," Makai said. "We pay for our Dish TV. It's a little upsetting and we're furious about that."

    The Distillery's owner planned to call NFL officials today, Makai said.

    Employees at Fuzzy's said they will comply with the letter; a manager at Oakhurst Tavern said they did not show the game.

    Bernie O'Brien, the owner of O'Brien's in Carrollwood, said he was not aware of copyright regulations when he showed the Bucs-Steelers game on Sunday.

    "I definitely won't do it again," O'Brien said.

    O'Brien said he learned about the live Internet feeds through tips that have been passed along on social networking sites since the Bucs' season opener was blacked out on local television.

    Facebook and Twitter users have told friends to go to websites such as, and Ustream to check for links that could lead fans to live video streams of NFL games.

    Bucs blackouts won't be an issue this weekend because the team has a bye. On Oct. 10, the Bucs have a road game against the Cincinnati Bengals and the game is expected to be televised in the Tampa Bay area.

    O'Brien's will no longer be using live video streams from the Internet, but the pub owner said blackouts of Bucs home games won't really affect his business because he caters mostly to Steelers fans.

    "The publicity's been crazy," O'Brien said about the live-streaming that drew more than 200 fans to his pub on Sunday. "I have no regrets about it."

    Reporter Ray Reyes can be reached at (813) 259-7920"

  2. #2


    I think this is a cut-and-dried case in favor of the NFL. The NFL blacks out games in the home market when those games are not sold out to increase attendance. Using alternate means to receive those games is a clear violation of the NFL's copyright. It was good of them to give the one week grace period to the bar owners. I guarantee every bar owner that violated the rule knew about it.

    "Fair use" is for things like news reporting or academia, so it does not apply here because the bar owners are showing the games as a money-making endeavor. Yes, the websites are liable, but the bar owners are too.

    I'm not a huge fan of the blackout policy. At the very least I'd like to see blackouts lifted for paying customers of NFL Sunday Ticket (especially since I live in Los Angeles but for some reason San Diego Chargers games get blacked out...WTF?) But the violation is clear.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member Array Lateralus's Avatar
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    May 2007


    Quote Originally Posted by EffEmDoubleyou View Post
    I'm not a huge fan of the blackout policy. At the very least I'd like to see blackouts lifted for paying customers of NFL Sunday Ticket (especially since I live in Los Angeles but for some reason San Diego Chargers games get blacked out...WTF?) But the violation is clear.
    Rather than lower ticket prices, they blackout games. Smart. I wonder how much advertising revenue they lose.
    "We grow up thinking that beliefs are something to be proud of, but they're really nothing but opinions one refuses to reconsider. Beliefs are easy. The stronger your beliefs are, the less open you are to growth and wisdom, because "strength of belief" is only the intensity with which you resist questioning yourself. As soon as you are proud of a belief, as soon as you think it adds something to who you are, then you've made it a part of your ego."

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