One of the more pinnacle copyright decisions involving a sports league came in a 1997 lawsuit by the NBA against Motorola Inc. The telecommunications company manufactured a paging device and used employees stationed inside arenas to text out instant game updates to fans anywhere.
The NBA argued this infringed on its exclusive property rights to live game action. But the courts disagreed, saying the league’s game broadcasts enjoyed copyright protection — but not the live action itself.
This was an important distinction impacting today’s live streaming.
Per the courts: copy game footage off the TV and you’re in trouble. Create your own footage by going to the game and taking it? That’s allowed.