NFL Drops $150,000 Warning On Local Bars

October 1st, 2010

Big Brother NFL has dropped a written hammer on eight Tampa Bay area bars that apparently unlawfully showed the blacked out Bucs-Steelers game to patrons Sunday, so reports Ray Reyes of The Tampa Tribune.

Joe must wonder, if eight were warned by the NFL, then how many establishments actually grabbed one of the unauthorized Internet feeds and showed the game? 20? 30? 40?

Per the Tribune story, each location got a letter telling it to stop showing blacked out games or face a fine up to $150,000 per showing.

No surprise that the league is cracking down. The NFL protecting TV revenue is almost like a mother protecting her newborn. Joe’s almost surprised the NFL didn’t actually file suit. If the first step is a warning, then what’s to stop a pile of other locations from showing the next Bucs home game, which is nearly certain to black out?

Joe’s not surprised that one of the bar owners is giddy over the free attention he’s gottten.

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.”

Perhaps O’Brien will start marketing WiFi access and offer a free pitcher to any patron with a laptop during Bucs home games.

Mike Florio, the curator, creator and guru and says the NFL is on similar high alert in San Diego, which also is suffering blackout blues.

Joe predicts it’s only a matter of time before the NFL finds a fan or two to send a scary letter.

24 Responses to “NFL Drops $150,000 Warning On Local Bars”

  1. Earl Says:

    Did they actually say “fine”? I don’t know how one private business can fine another private business. They can sue for damages, but as far as I know a fine can only be instituted by a government. By the way, is punishing your customers a good marketing idea?

  2. Joe Says:


    Back in the 1970s, 40 percent of NFL home games were blacked out.

    Prior to the Super Bowl era, the NFL blacked out local broadcasts of the NFL championship, sellout or no sellout.

  3. pete I Says:

    The fine is asscoiated with the copyright infringment laws and statutes as they are currently written and could be ordered by a court should such an infringment violation be proven in a court of law.

    I also believe that the wording is “up to” $150,000.

    The NFL would be using the courts to get redress.

  4. Matt Says:

    “Joe predicts it’s only a matter of time before the NFL finds a fan or two to send a scary letter.”

    This would require cooperation from an ISP. I very, very highly doubt the NFL goes this route. It just isn’t worth their time, effort, and negative reaction to punish at the single fan level.

  5. Jonny Says:

    If what O’Briens already did does not draw a fine, I don’t know what does.

  6. Ash Says:

    Matt Says:

    October 1st, 2010 at 2:31 pm
    “Joe predicts it’s only a matter of time before the NFL finds a fan or two to send a scary letter.”

    This would require cooperation from an ISP. I very, very highly doubt the NFL goes this route. It just isn’t worth their time, effort, and negative reaction to punish at the single fan level.

    Matt is correct. The ISP would have to release the name of the customer which they dont like to do at all. I once got a letter from Verizon because HBO contacted them about me downloading torrents of their shows. The letter was very non threatening. Since then (over a year ago) I’m still downloading and haven’t heard a peep

  7. admin Says:

    Joe here,

    Sorry guys, the NFL and teams specifically already have relationships with ISPs via phone and cable TV. It’s reasonable to think that someone would help them out.

  8. Joe Says:

    This would require cooperation from an ISP.


    Verizon ( domains) is a corporate sponsor of the NFL…

    Out House Networks ( domains) is a Pewter Partner…

    All it takes is for some IT type to click a mouse, and…

    Feel free to do the math.

  9. Dave Says:

    The NFL has rules in their contract with TELEVISION Broadcasts.

    I do not see how a webcast would hold up in court. I say every bar do it and tell the NFL to BRING IT ON!

    The blackouts are ridiculous.

    They are an idea that serve no purpose any more.

    I find it hard to believe a blackout would cause more than a couple hundred to buy a ticket. I have a big HD screen at home, if they are not on… I golf then watch the late games.

    In the long run they are doing nothing but hurting their fan base, especially young new fans who, in this day and age, can watch any other team they want.

  10. oar Says:

    Go Bu….er Blackouteers!

  11. pete I Says:

    @ Dave

    the wording is something like “any reproduction” without the express written consent of the NFL…blah blah blah.

    Any reproduction casts a wide legal net.

    Even live TV is a reproduction of the actual event. So internet streaming would be a similar medium. Case law on such things is not completely established, but the NFL and any action it takes might get the courts to set precedent on how the copyright law is interpreted via the net.

    I would not bet on the bar owners or the ISP protections.

  12. Pete Dutcher Says:

    First off, they really can’t “fine” private establishments. They can sue them, but they cannot “fine” them.

    As to whether the lawsuits would be successful, that’s open to debate. If the establishments are showing the content of a non-associated website, which they are not responsbile for the broadcast, then the bar and the patrons may well be in the clear. Certainly, it would make it the the supreme court to get a final warning.

    And if it goes to the supreme court, I would not expect the NFL to win. The court hass had plenty of opportunites to establish some sort of control on the Internet, including protection of copyrights, yet in few cases (if any) has copyright been decided to apply.

    In the end, it would likely come down to whether any of the establishments being sued could afford the massive legal fees to get to the supreme court in the first place. In this, the NFL would have and advantage.

  13. Pete Dutcher Says:

    Certainly, it would make it the the supreme court to get a final warning.

    Certainly, it would make it to the Supreme Court to get a final judgement.

    Don’t really know what went wrong with my brain there, lol.

  14. Pete Dutcher Says:

    I should say…the above posts are strictly oppinion…I have not actually researched anything.

  15. pete I Says:

    “If the establishments are showing the content of a non-associated website, which they are not responsbile for the broadcast, then the bar and the patrons may well be in the clear. ”

    @ pete
    No way! If they SHOW it, no matter from what source they get it from, they could be infringing on the copyright protection of the matter at hand.

    They are VERY MUCH RSPONSIBLE for what is on their TV’s, so if they decide to show internet porn or kiddy porn on their TV’s they won’t be held responsible.

  16. Dave Says:

    pete I

    Got it. I thought it was a contract with TV stations about distribution. Makes sense, it has to do with reproduction.

  17. BamBamBuc Says:

    My guess is the NFL would find a way to locate and send letters to several hundred or maybe several thousand individuals that they can locate watching illegal internet feeds in an attempt to get the media going on this. That’s what was happening with the whole Napster thing years ago. News got hold of reports of individuals supposedly being “sued” for theft of copyright material and everything hit the fan. I’m sure they will attempt to instill fear in people watching illegal content by seeking out a few to send letters to.

    As for the bar, they are responsible for what appears on the tvs. If they are showing material that is illegally obtained (copyright infringement), they will be held accountable. The laws regarding copyright are in place, the announcement is made each game, they know they are broadcasting (to their clientele) an illegal reproduction. The “fine” is in accord with copyright law, and would be held up in courts as a legal repercussion. It is considered theft, their product is being stolen, consumed without proper payment.

  18. Mr. Lucky Says:

    pete I says, the term the NFL uses is , ‘any REPRODUCTION…’ and that means rebroadcasting.

    The internet streams that broadcast blackout games are not a REPRODUCTION.

    LIVE STREAMING of a broadcast game would NOT fall under this clause. The NFL is trying to intimidate these establishments. The NFL can not ‘fine’ them for showing the bucs game in the blackout zone because the NFL has no contract with the individual establishments.

    Sure the NFL can sue, anyone can sue in this country, but on this issue the NFL will NOT win.

    As for Joe making the assumputin that fans will get a letter from the NFL? Joe you KNOW what happens when you ASSUME? Ain’t gonna happen and if the NFL pushes this they WILL lose.

  19. pete I Says:

    “This telecast is copyrighted by the NFL for the private use of our audience. Any other use of this telecast or of any pictures, descriptions, or accounts of the game without the NFL’s consent, is prohibited.”

  20. Pruritis Ani Says:

    The problem for the NFL is the broadcast/telecast laws were written before Al Gore even thought about the internet. It’s a problem for the NFL that can be remedied through new legislation. Of course, this takes time. My prediction is that this goes to court, they lose, and more laws are passed.
    Not sure how it can be enforced. Look at all the sites that show new movies often before they even hit the theaters

  21. Miguel Grande Says:

    My daughter is a bartender in the Tampa Bay area. On Sunday she had to wear her Bucs jersey to work, I asked her why because the Bucs were blacked out. When she came home, she said that about 8 customers had placed their iphones on the bar broadcasting the game. They have a dozen large plasma’s playing the network’s feed but everyone was crowded around he bar watching the tiny screens.

  22. BigMacAttack Says:

    Here’s my thoughts, as if anyone gives a $h!t. If a few people show it then the NFL will come down hard, and win. Now if everybody shows it, say 300 bars or every one in the blackout area, then the NFL has a serious problem on it’s hands. It would make National Press and be a public relations nightmare for the NFL. They would have to sue everybody, forcing it into the higher courts taking years to decide. ALl the while fans would be hating on the NFL, making them look like “1984 Big Borther @$$holes” and they could only stop it with an injuction. But as the one lawyer said, with the internet, there is no law on the books yet. The bars could continue to show the games and ultimately bust the Blackout rule, much in the same way Corrupt Unions have been busted by people that actually want to work and not get paid to sit around and smoke cigs, sleep and do nothing for a paycheck. A bud of mine used to be an engr with Ford. He said one night he came in and the whole night shift, like 25 guys were all sleeping on the clock. It was a big deal, yea sure, their penalty was nothing but stop doing it. Do you think they did? Uh no.

  23. Pete Dutcher Says:

    Well said.

    In the end, I think that is sort of the situation we will see. The NFL is going to have to do one of two things:

    1) remove blackouts
    2) make blackouted areas pay-per-view

    But even if they tried number 2, bars would then be able to purchase and air the games.

  24. BamBamBuc Says:


    Pay-per-view is different for busniness than it is for individuals. They pay more than Joe Homeowner does. It’s based on seating capacity. It’s the same with NFL Sunday Ticket. They pay more than the Average Joe. That said, of course they’d pick up the game. I don’t think as many individual residents would pay for the game at home. If the price were $50 for individuals, there would be your typical football parties that pay for the game, but I still think money is an issue for most people and they’d rather spend $20 on beer and food going to a bar paying the $ for pay-per-view. That also defeats the purpose of filling stadiums and visiting team revenue.

    I think what they should do is set a “visiting team revenue” amount per stadium, not per ticket sales. The away team gets that regardless of how many people attend. If the home team loses revenue because they can’t fill the stadium and they’re paying all the proceeds to the away team, the home team will have to find ways to get people to the stadium. Incentives, ticket prices, promotions, etc. will have to be used to encourage fans to attend. Otherwise owners of the home team will begin losing profits paying the visiting team revenue, and no business owner likes seeing profit reduced.