The Braves are in the World Series! It’s the first time they’ve been since 1999 and everyone in Atlanta is excited. It’s time to rent a venue and a huge TV and invite all your friends for a viewing party!
Not so fast. It’s important that Braves fans do not forget about copyright law when planning your World Series events.
So, what are the ground rules to keep your party in fair territory?
The “Balls” and “Strikes” of Viewing Parties
The Copyright Act gives Major League Baseball rights over “public performances” of its World Series broadcasts. So, a World Series viewing party in a home is a “private” performance and not subject to copyright laws. You can invite as many people as you want into your home and rent as large a TV as you can fit. Just don’t charge admission.
What about viewing parties in other settings?
If you rent out a bar, the broadcasting of the game is considered a public performance and is subject to copyright laws. A viewing party in a bar or restaurant could thus lead to a claim of infringement.
There is a limited exception though: when there is only a single television set in the venue. Does this mean you could bring in a 120-inch TV for your guests? No. The exception only covers a “single receiving apparatus of a kind commonly used in private homes.”
What Does this Mean?
If the TV and equipment you bring into the venue for your viewing party is beyond what someone would typically have in their home (like a 120-inch TV), you are likely exposing yourself to a copyright infringement claim. If the TV is of a size you’d typically find in a home today (perhaps 50 or 55 inches), you are likely ok. But, again, don’t charge admission.
Sports leagues can be aggressive in protecting their copyrights, including over broadcasts of big games. Indeed, the NFL once sued a church in Indiana that charged an admission fee to a large party for the Colts-Bears Super Bowl.
Enjoy the Braves’ return to the World Series but don’t host a viewing party that will put you in MLB’s crosshairs. Chop on!