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Sony Corporation of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc.

United States Supreme Court
464 U.S. 417 (1984)


Facts

Sony Corporation of America (Sony) (defendant) created a video cassette recorder (VCR) called Betamax, which allowed consumers to record things and watch them later, including copyrighted television shows and movies. Universal City Studios, Inc., et al. (plaintiffs), copyright holders of certain shows and movies, brought suit, alleging that Sony was guilty of contributory copyright infringement. The district court found that recording a show and watching it later (time-shifting) was fair use because it may actually increase viewership of copyrighted programs, and because content producers not involved in this litigation were actually in favor of allowing time-shifting to continue. The court of appeals reversed, ruling in favor of the plaintiffs. Sony appealed.

Rule of Law

The rule of law is the black letter law upon which the court rested its decision.

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Stevens, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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