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Sunday, February 04, 2007
 
Super Bowl XLI and the Law

As you get ready for Super Bowl XLI, here are some great articles to check out:

Adam Benforado over at The Situationist examines how Super Bowl ads activate a specific part of the human brain, and how corporate actors use that information to create a distorted sense of "choice" among consumers. Adam wonders about the legal and ethical implications of these ads:
Corporations don’t exactly have a good track record when it comes to learning counterintuitive information about human decision making and then using it responsibly. Rather, the best approach for maximizing shareholder profit is to discover some seemingly-illogical detail about the human brain, use that knowledge to sell more widgets, and then convince the public that their naïve (and incorrect) beliefs about how they make choices are, in fact, correct.

Take big tobacco: as Jon Hanson and others have documented, after figuring out that nicotine was addictive and could compel people to buy Marlboros, cigarette companies made a concerted effort to both up nicotine concentrations in their products and convince people, through advertising, that they were rational actors who were not easily manipulated.

From the perspective of an entity that is charged, through our legal rules, with making money (and not with doing social good), it makes little sense to alter peoples’ situations to get them to be better consumers and then tell them that you are doing it and that it matters. Why, that would be as silly as announcing a weak-side blitz to the quarterback before the play. Sure, it would be the nice, ethical thing to warn decent gentlemen like Manning and Rex Grossman of the imminent threat, but it’s not part of the game we’ve developed. Football is a game where you can get blind-sided.
Daniel Engber over at Slate discusses how the NFL is cracking down on Super Bowl parties, provided those parties are "public gatherings" rather than "private showings." (thanks to Sports Law Blog reader Tony Swanagan for the heads up on this story). The real issue here, however, is how the NFL is interpreting section 110 of the copyright law, which enables citizens to show games to large crowds, provided they do not charge and provided they are "only using 'a single receiving apparatus of a kind commonly used in private homes." Does a big-screen plasma TV count as a "single receiving apparatus of a kind commonly used in private homes"? Engber writes:
Given the rapid changes in video technology and consumer spending habits, it's very difficult for the courts to make these determinations. That means the NFL lawyers have to decide for themselves when a screen is too big and it's time to send a threatening letter.
Have you placed a monetary bet on tonight's big game while in Pennsylvania? Well if you have, the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office is sorry to say (through Heidi Ruckno's article in the Wilkes Barre Citizens Voice) that you have probably broken Pennsylvania law:
Unless you’re in Vegas today, you might to want think twice about placing a bet. If you threw $5 into the office pool or bet your brother-in-law $10 that the Bears defense couldn’t handle Peyton Manning’s offense, you likely broke Pennsylvania law.

According to Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, the only legal forms of gambling in Pennsylvania are the state lottery, small games of chance such as Bingo, betting on horse races and the newly approved slot machine gambling. “It’s a law by exclusion,” Frederiksen said. “The law doesn’t say you can’t have an office betting pool, but it does say that gambling is illegal in Pennsylvania except for those things.”
Last but not least, be sure to check out dré cummings' excellent Sports Law Blog post on the Rooney Rule in light of both head coaches in tonight's game being African-American.





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