NFL adopts game day social media policy

The National Football League, ten days from the start of the 2009 regular season, has rolled out its policy regarding the use of social media (such as Twitter and Facebook) on game days.

Per the release from the league office, the NFL has advised the 32 member teams that coaches, players, and football operations personnel will be permitted, with club permission, to use these devices on game day during specific time periods before and after games.

The prohibited window starts 90 minutes before the game begins and extends after post-game media interviews have concluded.

The phrase “with club permission,” however, allows the teams to (in theory) apply broader rules on the use of social media.

At some point, the matter could become a subject for collective bargaining.  (Actually, the NFLPA might contend that the league-imposed policy in and of itself represents a condition of employment that cannot be unilaterally imposed.)

“The use of these sites . . . is not permitted during the game, including halftime,” the release states.  “No updates are permitted to be posted by the individual himself or anyone representing him during this prohibited time on his personal Twitter, Facebook or any other social media account.”

The league also has blocked referee Ed Hochuli from tweeting apologies for his next blown call; the policy prohibits NFL game officials and the officiating department from using social media at any time.

There’s also an aspect that applies to the media. 

“Longstanding policies prohibiting play-by-play descriptions of NFL games in progress apply fully to Twitter and other social media platforms,” the release states.  “Internet sites may not post detailed information that approximates play-by-play during a game.  While a game is in progress, any forms of accounts of the game must be sufficiently time-delayed and limited in amount (e.g., score updates with detail given only in quarterly game updates) so that the accredited organization’s game coverage cannot be used as a substitute for, or otherwise approximate, authorized play-by-play accounts.”

But while it will be fairly easy for the league to slam the door on play-by-play accounts posted by the likes of beat writers, accredited national media, and assorted Internet slapdicks like yours truly, we wish the league office the best of luck in keeping Joe Schmoe in Kokomo from trying to become the Twitter and/or USTREAM version of Al Michaels.

And that’s where the rules become unfair and/or unrealistic.  Someone sitting in the press box will be prohibited from tweeting a play-by-play account of the game.  But the guy or gal sitting only a few feet away in the paid seating area will be able to tweet to his or her heart’s content. 

There’s no way that the NFL will be able to police this.  Our guess is that, in the end, the league will to stop only those offenders who become the most popular and/or notorious.

All that said, our new friend (and we don’t mean that sarcastically) Chad Ochocinco is on notice — there will be no player tweeting during games.

21 responses to “NFL adopts game day social media policy

  1. So the league is busy making up rules about Facebook and Twitter, but can’t come up with a reasonable outcome for the scoreboard issue in Dallas? Nice work.

  2. Hitting the scoreboard with the ball is better than spiking it because it kills the clock with no penalty and doesn’t wast a down.

  3. So what if Chad Johnson has someone set up another account called “bizarrocinco” and tweet from there during the game. Would the league open up a Plaxico/Vick investigation into it?
    As soon as they can figure out how to make money from it, there will be tweeting/some renegade form of tweeting from It’s always about the money.

  4. Sounds like the NFL needs to take a page out of the SEC’s social media policy playbook! ‘Cause you know the SEC is going to clamp down on everyone tweeting during their games!

  5. “Internet sites may not post detailed information that approximates play-by-play during a game. ”
    By what right can the NFL claim this? I think that I ought to be able to write about something I’m watching on TV with as much detail from personal observation as I choose, on my blog (for example), whether what I’m watching is a sporting event, a political debate, a sitcom, or whatever.
    Does the NFL actually have any grounds for saying this? I know they’re in position to punish their employees for violating the rule, but are they actually able to keep me from sitting on my couch or in the stands and typing up a play-by-play for a game I paid them to see?
    Florio’s a lawyer, right?

  6. It’s about making rules for people that don’t mind putting their entire life out there for people to see. If they don’t mind doing that with their own life/lives, just what will they put out there about others (the NFL/their team/etc) ?
    And, what’s unreasonable about The NFL’s outcome for Jerry’s scoreboard ?

  7. WHAT ABOUT THE GUY SITTING ON HIS COUCH IN FRONT OF HIS TV AND computer what is there to stop him?

  8. Everyone keeps talking about hitting the scoreboard by throwing the football how easy and not obvious is this? I havent seen the scoreboard personally, but it would seem quite obvious if a QB was trying to hit it.
    Anyways, I believe the social network policy is geared towards players, coaches, managers and owners. How many people’s doors has the NFL knocked on when they recorded the game with their VCR/DVR?

  9. “And that’s where the rules become unfair and/or unrealistic. Someone sitting in the press box will be prohibited from tweeting a play-by-play account of the game. But the guy or gal sitting only a few feet away in the paid seating area will be able to tweet to his or her heart’s content.”
    Want to know the difference? See the bolded part.

  10. For all of you who believe the NFL would never go after it’s fans for tweeting play-by-play… no one ever thought the record companies would go after people for downloading music either. The material is copy-written and licensed. Don’t doubt for a second the league would try it in the courts if they thought it wouldn’t hurt their bottom line. Eventually, they will get Twitter, Facebook and any other significant site in tow for fear of being sued. I’m no lawyer, and I wouldn’t pretend to have the final answer. However, I am certain the league wouldn’t have put out such a statement if they didn’t think they had strong legal ground (unless they just wanted to scare idiots like me).

  11. Hey, at least Ed Hochuli DOES apologize for his blown calls, unlike most refs who assume that they are never wrong.
    Oh, and it doesn’t allow for twittering during games. Of course that means your game, but can players tweet about other games and players that are in progress? The league needs to be clear so Ocho knows when he is violating rules as opposed to just bending them.

  12. I agree with CapsLockKey. You get into the game for free, Jackass. Do you know how many people would agree to go to a free NFL game if the only stipulation was that they couldn’t Twitter?

  13. How can you copyright and license a description created by me of something of something that I watched? The NFL doesn’t exactly have any right to say “You can see this, but you absolutely cannot tell anybody about it.”
    They are fully within their right to keep me from taping NFL games and selling them, and they are completely within their right to keep me from taping an NFL game and rebroadcasting it.
    They have absolutely no right to keep me from describing something that I see with my own eyes.

  14. The NFL’s standard boilerplate:
    “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.”
    is a clear cut example of the copyright abuse known as “Copyfraud” (wherein a corporation makes a false copyright claim, which insinuates rights that they do not have).
    There are some specific problems here:
    1) The phrase “any use is prohibited” is overbroad and denies all of your rights to use copyrighted material. In fact, under U.S. copyright law, everybody has a right to make “fair use” of any copyrighted material. Any use of an NFL broadcast (let alone “accounts or descriptions” thereof) is entirely legitimate provided it is in good legal standing to be considered fair use.
    2) Through the phrase “any accounts or descriptions” the NFL is apparently attempting to copyright facts. You cannot copyright facts, facts equally belong to everybody, and you cannot take away anybody’s right to say something that is true, without some sort of contractual basis.
    3) The NFL is apparently claiming that you cannot do anything legally with this material without their permission. This is ridiculous, copyright doesn’t work like that. You don’t have to check with the copyright holder to see if they’re okay with what you plan to do involving their work. There are lots of things that are entirely legitimate uses of copyrighted works that the copyright holder would prefer you not engage in. For example, Professor Wendy Seltzer used a clip of the quoted boilerplate copyright claim in a class for her law students as an example of copyfraud. This is a clear example of fair use of a copyrighted work, and there are no other examples of a copyrighted work where you actually have to ask permission to make fair use.

  15. The NFL exercises its legitimate right to control the flow of information from its games which are private performances for customers, in the same way that musical performers do. Enforcing the “social media” policy will be no different than stopping the unauthorized display of NFL broadcast signals in pubs and bars who have no permission for such display. I don’t think there is a genie in a bottle here, especially with IP addys traceable and telecom businesses not interested in aggravating a valued business partner like the NFL.
    The thing about IP law is that the average citizen has nearly no respect for it, and the government’s respect for IP rights (all rights, actually) ebbs and flows due to political expediency. This has been the case for many decades. In addition, unlike law regarding physical property rights, IP law is written in a way that if an owner or claimant does not vigorously defend his property he can forfeit it. Imagine if a burglar ransacked your house, and if you didn’t beat him or shoot at him a judge could say that the burglar now owns the house, as does any vagrant who might want to squat there?
    As for the idea that the NFL can prohibit a person from rebroadcasting games but can’t keep him from talking about what he has viewed, that’s a false premise. The NFL can’t and wouldn’t interfere with people talking about ballgames, but can and will keep a person from posting play-by-play updates in a fashion clearly intended to substitute for licensed coverage.

  16. “Fair Use” is delimited, applying only to things such as journalism and scholarly activities. You might be able to make a fair use claim to use game footage if something truly newsworthy happened at an event, such as a riot, the death of a player or the crash of a blimp into the stadium.
    Intellectual property is just like physical property, and there is no such thing as an “overbroad” assertion of rights. An assertion of ownership is either valid or invalid: something is either owned or it is not. “Overbroad assertion” and “copyfraud” are buzzwords of those who embrace statist or socialist principles of collective ownership, and of wealth expropriation and redistribution.
    The “accounts and descriptions” clause is not an attempt to copyright facts, which cannot be protected. Accounts and descriptions are not facts, they are the work product of the people who create them. In this case they would be derivative works, and therefore not legal. Sports “journalists” who cover the NFL do so by invitation. NFL games are private matters, not public events.
    In fact, if a person desires to use someone else’s property (in a free or semi-free society wherein property rights are respected and protected) he must seek permission, whether said property is an automobile, farm animal, real estate, song, painting or performance art.

  17. A ton of bullshit comparisons here. ‘Accounts and descriptions’ in this context means the broadcaster’s accounts and descriptions (the play-by-play guys, sideline reporters, etc.), *not* a fans accounts and descriptions.
    The NFL doesn’t want you to tape the video of the game and rebroadcast it, the same goes for the audio, even if you are converting the audio (accounts and descriptions) to text and re-broadcasting that. They paid to create that video, audio and own what they created and should be able to control it’s use, it is their IP.
    No, they cannot stop me (a ticket paying fan) from texting, tweeting, or broadcasting in any way what I saw using my own words. Just as they cannot stop me from taking photos and broadcasting them.
    Sure, if you want to *use* someone else’s property (drive their car), you need permission. If you want to ‘broadcast’ your ‘account and description’ of someone driving a car, you obviously do not need the car owners permission.
    There are already plenty of ‘live game blogs’ out there where game ‘accounts and descriptions’ are posted on the web where anyone who wants to read them can.
    How about this scenario…If a NFL player gets knocked out at a game and wakes up in the hospital 20 minutes later, it is against NFL policy for him to use his personal twitter account to notify his family that he is ok? Bullshit.

  18. I disagree. An individual’s account and description is not a derivative work as it’s based on facts. Copyright protects expression not facts. Moreover, a person tweeting about description of the game is not copying the expression, the actual video/sounds of a game. There have been articles about scholars about NFL’s copyright policy is overbroad and likely would not be held up.

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