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Satellite carrier PrimeTime 24 Joint Venture may not transmit broadcasts of National Football League (NFL) games to its subscribers in Canada, the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals ruled April 28 ( National Football League v. PrimeTime 24 Joint Venture, Nos. 99-9244 and 99-9388, 2nd Cir.). The court affirmed a permanent injunction issued against PrimeTime by U.S. Judge Lawrence M. McKenna of the Southern District of New York. PrimeTime has a statutory license to make satellite transmissions to subscribers in U.S. households that do not have adequate over-the-air broadcast reception from primary television stations, so-called “unserved” households. In 1997, NFL officials wrote to PrimeTime demanding that it stop transmitting games to Canada. When PrimeTime continued the practice, arguing that U.S. copyright laws were not applicable because there was no unauthorized display of the games in the United States, the NFL filed suit. Judge McKenna entered a permanent injunction in October 1999. PUBLIC PERFORMANCE Affirming, the Second Circuit rejected PrimeTime’s argument that capturing or uplinking copyrighted material and transmitting it to a satellite does not constitute a public performance or display of the material within the meaning of the Copyright Act. “We believe the most logical interpretation of the Copyright Act is to hold that a public performance or display includes ‘each step in the process by which a protected work wends its way to its audience,’” the court said. “Under that analysis, it is clear that PrimeTime’s uplink transmission of signals captured in the United States is a step in the process by which NFL’s protected work wends its way to a public audience. In short, PrimeTime publicly displayed or performed material in which the NFL owns the copyright. Because PrimeTime did not have authorization to make such a public performance, PrimeTime infringed the NFL’s copyright.” The NFL is represented by Neil K. Roman, John Vanderstar and Ronald G. Dove Jr. of Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C., and Eric Seiler and Robert S. Loigman of Friedman, Kaplan & Seiler in New York. PrimeTime is represented by Brandon F. White, Kenneth S. Leonetti and Lawrence H. Martin of Foley, Hoag & Eliot in Boston and Craig S. Mende and Roger L. Zissu of Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu in New York. � Copyright 2000 Mealey Publications, Inc.

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