• The FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability proposing to fine Nexstar Media Group,
  • Yesterday, I wrote about the history of the NCAA’s assembling of the rights to an array of trademarks associated with this month’s college basketball tournaments.  Today, I will provide some examples of the activities that can bring unwanted NCAA attention to your promotions or advertising, as well as an increasingly important development that should be considered when considering whether to accept advertising.

    Activities that May Result in a Demand Letter from the NCAA

    The NCAA acknowledges that media entities can sell advertising that accompanies the entity’s coverage of the NCAA championships.  However, similar to my discussion in February on the use of Super Bowl trademarks (see here) and my 2018 discussion on the use of Olympics trademarks (see here), unless authorized by the NCAA, any of the following activities may result in a cease and desist demand:

    • accepting advertising that refers to the NCAA, the NCAA Basketball Tournament, March Madness, The Big Dance, Final Four, Elite Eight or any other NCAA trademark or logo (The NCAA has posted a list of its trademarks here.)
      • Example: An ad from a retailer with the headline, “Buy A New Big Screen TV in Time to Watch March Madness.”
      • Presumably, to avoid this issue, some advertisers have used “It’s Tournament Time!”
    • local programming that uses any NCAA trademark as part of its name
      • Example: A locally produced program previewing the tournament called “The Big Dance: Pick a Winning Bracket.”
    • selling the right to sponsor the overall coverage by a broadcaster, website or print publication of the tournament.
      • Example: During the sports segment of the local news, introducing the section of the report on tournament developments as “March Madness, brought to you by [name of advertiser].”
    • sweepstakes or giveaways that include any NCAA trademark in its name (see here)
      • Example: “The Final Four Giveaway.”
    • sweepstakes or giveaways that offer tickets to a tournament game as a prize
      • Example: even if the sweepstakes name is not a problem, offering game tickets as a prize will raise an objection by the NCAA due to language on the tickets prohibiting their use for such purposes.
    • events or parties that use any NCAA trademark to attract guests
      • Example: a radio station sponsors a happy hour where fans can watch a tournament game, with any NCAA marks that are prominently placed on signage.
    • advertising that wishes or congratulates a team, or its coach or players, on success in the tournament
      • Example: “[Advertiser name] wishes [Name of Coach] and the 2022 [Name of Team] success in the NCAA tournament!”

    There is a common pitfall that is unique to the NCAA, namely, basketball: tournament brackets used by advertisers, in newspapers or other media, or office pools where participants predict the winners of each game in advance of the tournament.  The NCAA’s position (see here) is that the unauthorized placement of advertising within an NCAA bracket and corporate sponsorship of a tournament bracket is misleading and constitutes an infringement of its intellectual property rights.   Accordingly, it says that any advertising should be outside of the bracket space and should clearly indicate that the advertiser or its goods or services are not sponsored by, approved by, or otherwise associated with the NCAA or its championship tournament.Continue Reading Guard Yourself Before Moving Forward When Accepting or Engaging in Advertising or Promotions that Use FINAL FOUR or Other NCAA Trademarks:  2024 Update – Part II

    Each year, as the NCAA basketball tournaments get underway, my colleague Mitch Stabbe highlights the trademark issues that can arise from uses of the well-known words and phrases associated with the games in advertising, promotions, and other media coverage. Here is Part I of his review. Look for Part II tomorrow.

    The last few years have filled with changes in college sports.  Teams that have been part of a conference for decades have decided to jump to another conference, with movement of different schools from or to the Big 12 Conference, the Big Ten Conference, the Pac 12, the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Southeastern Conference and others.  In addition, we are starting to see the consequences of the NCAA finally allowing athletes to monetize the commercial use of their name, images and likenesses, now called “Name, Image and Likeness” (NIL) and previously described as the Right of Publicity.

    One thing that has not changed is the NCAA’s hard line against unauthorized uses of FINAL FOUR or its other marks.  Thus, broadcasters, publishers and other businesses need to be wary about potential claims arising from their use of terms and logos associated with the tournament.

    NCAA Trademarks

    The NCAA owns the well-known marks March Madness®, The Big Dance®, Final Four®, Women’s Final Four®, Elite Eight,® Women’s Elite Eight®  and The Road to the Final Four® (with and without the word “The”), each of which is a federally registered trademark.  The NCAA does not own “Sweet Sixteen” – someone else does – but it does have federal registrations for NCAA Sweet Sixteen® and NCAA Sweet 16®.Continue Reading Guard Yourself Before Moving Forward When Accepting or Engaging in Advertising or Promotions that Use FINAL FOUR or Other NCAA Trademarks:  2024 Update – Part I

    Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the past week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

    • The FCC announced the circulation for Commissioner review and approval of two decisions of interest to broadcasters, signifying that we

    Mitchell Stabbe, our resident trademark law specialist, today takes his annual look at the legal issues in Super Bowl advertising and promotions (see some of his past articles here, here, and here).  Take it away, Mitch:  

    As a life-long fan of the Baltimore Ravens (the life of the Ravens, not my life), my interest in the Super Bowl XVII has waned a bit.  The opposite is true for those who seek to profit from the playing of the game.  Accordingly, following are updated guidelines about engaging in or accepting advertising or promotions that directly or indirectly reference the Super Bowl without a license from the NFL.  But, first, a trivia question.  Who won Super Bowl I.  (Answer at end)

    The Super Bowl means big bucks.

    There are currently four primary television networks that broadcast and stream NFL games in the United States (CBS/Paramount+, Fox, ABC/ESPN/ESPN+ and NBC/Peacock).  It is estimated that, with the new contract which took effect this year, each will pay the NFL an average of over $2 billion per year for those rights through 2032, including the right to broadcast the Super Bowl on a rotating basis.

    The investment seems to pay off for the networks.  Reportedly, it will cost $7M for a 30-second spot during this year’s Super Bowl broadcast, which is about the same as last year.  It has also been reported that last year’s game brought in advertising revenue totaling $600 M (up from $545 M the prior year).  These figures do not include income from ads during any pre-game or post-game programming.  (In addition to the sums paid to have their commercials aired, some advertisers spend millions of dollars to produce an ad.)  In addition, the NFL receives hundreds of millions of dollars from licensing the use of the SUPER BOWL trademark and logo.Continue Reading 2024 Update on Super Bowl Advertising and Promotions

    Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the past week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

    • The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau released a Notice of Apparent Liability proposing a $25,000 fine on two commonly-owned clusters of broadcast

    Readers of the Broadcast Law Blog are familiar with the potential trademark claims that may arise from the use of SUPER BOWL® (see here) or FINAL FOUR® in advertising or promotions (see here and here).  I was recently asked, in light of the various “WORLD SERIES OF ____” marks that are being used for sports or activities other than baseball, whether there is a similar risk with using WORLD SERIES® in advertising or promotions during this time of year.

    The short answer is yes.

    The first use of “World Series” for the US professional sports championship took place in 1903, if not earlier.  However, it was not until 1987 that the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball (“MLB”) began seeking federal registration for “World Series” trademarks.  The applications were based on use of the marks before 1986.  (Use of a trademark without registration can create “common law” marks, which are enforceable, but the owner of the mark does not have the presumptions of ownership and validity that accompany trademarks registered on the Principal Register of the US Patent and Trademark Office.)

    Today, MLB owns a number of registered marks for “WORLD SERIES” in words, in a stylized format or with a design.  MLB’s rights in “WORLD SERIES” marks are strong.  Indeed, MLB appears to own all of the registrations for WORLD SERIES-formative marks for goods or services relating to baseball tournaments and merchandise, including COLLEGE WORLD SERIES®, WOMEN’S COLLEGE WORLD SERIES® and HIGH SCHOOL WORLD SERIES®, notwithstanding the fact that those events are run by the NCAA or other sports organizations.  (see here and here).  Although it is probably not obvious to the average fan, MLB owns these marks and licenses the respective trademarks to the actual tournament operators.  The fact that MLB has made these arrangements reflects how seriously MLB takes protecting its WORLD SERIES® mark and how strong those rights are – up to a point.Continue Reading Unauthorized Use of WORLD SERIES in Advertising or Promotions?  Strike One, Strike Two … !!

    Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the past week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

    • Since the February 24 hearing designation order (HDO) from the FCC’s Media Bureau referring questions about Standard General Broadcasting’s proposed

    Note from David Oxenford: Seth Resler of Jacobs Media yesterday wrote on his Connecting the Dots blog about the ease of synthesizing the voice of a celebrity, and the temptation to use that replicated voice in an on-air broadcast.  Last week, in an article on policy issues raised by AI, we mentioned that some states have adopted laws that limit the use of synthesized media in political advertising.  In Seth’s article, he quotes Belinda Scrimenti of my law firm pointing out some of the legal issues that arise from using a synthesized voice even in entertainment programming, and especially in commercials. Belinda has expanded on her thoughts and offers the following observations on the use of synthesized personalities on radio or TV. 

    The advent of artificial intelligence poses interesting and often challenging legal issues because the law is still “catching up” with the technology. Consider the impact of new AI platforms that can learn a person’s voice, then speak whatever text you submit to it in that person’s voice. If a user submits 60 seconds of Taylor Swift audio to the AI platform, the platform can use this sample to learn to “speak” as Taylor Swift, and the user can then have “her” say whatever the user wants.

    While some states are considering or have adopted some restrictions on impersonation by AI, many existing legal concepts applied with traditional celebrity impersonation claims are already applicable to this kind of synthesized celebrity impersonation. Thus, if the use by a broadcaster of Taylor Swift’s voice (either taped and edited or impersonated by a human) would violate the right of publicity that is already found in the law of most states, the use of her AI voice would also violate these same rights.  Continue Reading Using AI to Replicate the Voice of a Celebrity – Watch Out for Legal Issues Including Violating the Right of Publicity

    Artificial intelligence has been the buzzword of the last few months.  Since the public release of ChatGPT, seemingly every tech company has either announced a new AI program or some use for AI that will compete with activities currently performed by real people. While AI poses all sorts of questions for society and issues for almost every industry, applications for the media industry are particularly interesting.  They range from AI creating music, writing scripts, reporting the news, and even playing DJ on Spotify channels.  All these activities raise competitive issues, but there have also begun to be a number of policy issues bubbling to the surface. 

    The most obvious policy issue is whether artistic works created by AI are entitled to copyright protection – an issue addressed by recent guidance from the Copyright Office suggesting that a work created solely by a machine is not entitled to protection, but that there may be circumstances where a person is providing sufficient guidance to the artificial intelligence such that the AI is seen as more of a tool for the person’s creativity, and that person can claim to be the creator of the work and receive copyright protection. Continue Reading Looking at the Some of the Policy Issues for Media and Music Companies From the Expanding Use of Artificial Intelligence