Skip to comments.Supreme Court Rules Home Use of VCRs Okay! (1984)
Posted on 01/18/2012 6:07:20 PM PST by Dallas59
Supreme Court OKs Use of Video Recorders in Homes
5-4 Decision in Copyright Case: The Supreme Court Jan. 17 ruled, 5-4, that the noncommercial home use of video cassette recorders did not violate the federal Copyright Act of 1976. The decision in Sony v. Universal City Studios had been one of the most eagerly awaited of the current high court term.
According to the video industry, an estimated 10% of U.S. households had VCRs, with about eight million machines in use at the end of 1983. VCR sales in 1984 were expected to be over five million.
The ruling was a victory for Sony Corp., manufacturer of the popular Betamax VCR, and a defeat for Walt Disney Productions and Universal City Studios (a unit of MCA Inc.) The studios had argued that the home taping of copyrighted films and television shows violated their property rights and deprived them of revenues. The Supreme Court, reversing a 1981 ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, held that home taping did not infringe on the copyright law unless the copied material was used for a "commercial or profit-making purpose."
Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the five-member majority, concluded that noncommercial home taping fell within the so-called "fair use" exception to copyright laws. The doctrine permitted the limited use of copyrighted materials.
Stevens focused part of his opinion on the legality of "time-shifting," or the recording of programs for later viewing. "Time-shifting," he said, "merely enables a viewer to see such a work which he had been invited to witness in its entirety free of charge."
He continued: "One may search the Copyright Act in vain for any sign that the elected representatives of the millions of people who watch television every day have made it unlawful to copy a program for later viewing at home, or have enacted a flat prohibition against the sale of machines that make such copying possible." Stevens maintained that the court had no choice but to rule as it did because Congress had failed specifically to include video technology in the copyright laws. "It is not our job to apply laws that have not been written," he said.
The dissenters, led by Justice Harry A. Blackmun, criticized the majority for its sweeping view of the "fair use" doctrine. Blackmun contended that such a view risked "eroding the very basis of copyright law by depriving authors of control over their works." Justices Lewis F. Powell Jr., Thurgood Marshall and William H. Rehnquist joined Blackmun.
Both the majority and minority voting alignments crossed ideological lines. (or example, Marshall and Rehnquist rarely voted together in split decisions.) The dissent, 44 pages, was longer than the 37-page majority opinion, suggesting to some observers that one or more justices had switched sides before the ruling was announced. The ruling left open the possibility that the film and television studios could persuade Congress to curb home taping. The studios favored a surcharge or royalty on the sale of VCRs and blank tapes.
They are making this decision just as the VCR is going the way of the Dictaphone. However, I think that the precedent will apply to TiVo and subsequent technologies.
I’m not going to touch that we’re ruling on VCRs after they’ve stopped being in regular use.
How !@#$ing idiotic. It was on my TV for free an hour ago while I was eating dinner, but now I should be prevented from watching it because it’s no longer free?
Furthermore, screw you (proverbial). If it enters my home and I choose to make a copy of it, piss on it, use it to scrub plates, etc. ... as long as I don’t damage it or use it in a way which is illegal no one has any right to tell me what I can or can’t do with it.
“The dissenters, led by Justice Harry A. Blackmun”
The poster cleverly neglected to post the decade in which this occurred. Funny, huh?
January 17, 1984.
Damn near everyone with cable/satellite has some form of TiVo attached to it. I don’t get how this means anything if all those devices are already on the market and in-use.
Must be missing something.
Ahh, the 80’s when America was America. Still remember my uncle back when telling me to shut up as he was waiting for “Cherry Pie” by Warrant to come on the radio so he could press record on his recorder.
This thing going on today with web site's blanking out in protest is already settled back in the 1980's with VCR's. Just as a practical matter, once China gets a CD of Lady GaGa and rips to to a web site, how on earth will you stop it from going out? Hollywood wants Google and Microsoft to be their police for free. It would be an almost impossible job and makes web servers and search engine's liable if something screws up. What no one seems to be thinking about is the gubmint will decide what is illegal and what isn't. It pretty much guarantee's the Tea Party will be evil and the OWS will be poor mistreated content providers that need the Tea Party arrested and dismantled to save freedom in America.
If you just look back a few months at YouTube, almost every conservative clip was banned because they may have used a song or film image that Hollywood wanted royalties for. Of course, Obama girl could use any image she wanted to push Obama and the Dems.
The most important film clip in the last 5 years was one called "Burning Down The House" with the subject being Freddie and Fannie loaning money to people that couldn't afford the loan. It had CSPAN clips of Dems fighting the Repubs when The Bush administration tried to reign in GSA's from going broke. They were called racists because the Fannie CEO was a black man named Frank Raines. When things got pretty bad, around a million views, they pulled the clip saying the background music wasn't compensated for. He changed the music, put it back up and they pulled it again. If this law gets serious, the maker of this YouTube clip could get the full weight of the Obama administration on his back.
VCR? Oh yeah, I used to have one of those, back in the 20th century.
No, no! The Republican, Lamar Smith, specifically stated that this is about shutting down FOREIGN servers and piracy.
I am CERTAIN that these laws would NEVER be used against honest, freedom-loving Americans! DO I really need the “/s?”