The NFL, Intellectual Property, and the Conquest of Sports Media

29 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2020

See all articles by Eric E. Johnson

Eric E. Johnson

University of Oklahoma College of Law

Date Written: 2010


This article explores how the National Football League (NFL) has used assertions of intellectual property to control media coverage of its activities and events. Some history is uncovered, including the NFL’s project of wresting copyright ownership to televised game coverage away from the broadcast television networks. Also reviewed is the NFL’s spurious claims of copyright ownership over footage shot by third persons. The article further explains how the NFL has, in recent years, begun to use press accreditation as a way to gain copyright ownership over news-media footage and to eliminate competition with the NFL’s own web and television media businesses. It is concluded that the NFL’s press policies and its assertions of intellectual property ownership represent a threat to press freedoms of the sports and news media.

Keywords: NFL, football, copyright, press, media, sports

JEL Classification: L41

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Eric E., The NFL, Intellectual Property, and the Conquest of Sports Media (2010). North Dakota Law Review, Vol. 86, No. 4, p. 760, 2010, Available at SSRN:

Eric E. Johnson (Contact Author)

University of Oklahoma College of Law ( email )

300 Timberdell Road
Norman, OK 73019
United States

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