This very informative run through copyright history and theory since the Betamax decision of 1984 is marred by just one thing: the conclusions are EXACTLY 100% wrong. It isn't Betamax that needs to be overturned, it is the extensions of copyright over the last century past any reasonable time limit, and the extension of copyright holder's powers via such excremental laws as the DMCA that need to be retooled or simply repealed.
Copyright holders don't have too little power, they have far too much power and too many privileges - it is the public and our collective culture that has been damaged and stunted by onerous restrictions on what they can do with their own culture.
Writer Roger Parloff is an intelligent, knowledgeable fool:
- Entertainment companies say that the time has come to modify that court decision—popularly known as the Sony Betamax ruling. Equipment manufacturers insist that it remain inviolate. As judges try to force perplexing new technologies into the outdated conceptual pigeonholes bequeathed by the Betamax ruling, they are reaching conflicting results. While attention has focused on the record industry's suits against individual file sharers, this battle, a far more important one for the future of entertainment and technology, has been rolling implacably toward the highest court in the land.
For two technologically eventful decades, the Betamax case - formally, Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios - has defined the tense frontier that divides the rights of entertainment companies from those of technology providers. The conflict arises from a fundamental tension. Copyright laws grant creators a monopoly over the right to reproduce and distribute their works during the term of a copyright. Technology providers make devices that enable consumers to reproduce and distribute copyrighted works - photocopying machines, VCRs, TiVo, "ripping" software, CD burners, and high-bandwidth cable and DSL lines, to name just a few. Does that mean those technology providers are facilitating copyright infringement by their customers? Must technology providers be perpetually seeking permission from entertainment companies every time they want to develop a new invention capable of reproducing a copyrighted work?
Since 1984, the answer in the U.S. has been a resounding no. In the Betamax case the court decided that Sony, by marketing VCRs, could not be held liable for facilitating copyright infringement, even though it knew that some consumers would use its VCRs illegally. The VCR's "primary" uses, Justice John Paul Stevens noted, were noninfringing. But his ruling then went a step further. He suggested that any technology provider should be protected as long as the device it marketed was "capable of substantial noninfringing uses" - even if the device was not currently being used that way. The idea was that courts should not stifle potentially beneficial technologies in their infancy, before their usefulness might be fully understood.