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Sony Corp. v. Universal City Studios

Sony Corp v. Universal City Studios, 464 U.S. 417 (1984) (Docket Number: 81-1687), is also known as the Betamax case. The court found that the making of individual copies of complete television shows for home use is considered fair use, and that the manufacture of devices (VCRs) to faciliate that is legal. Arguments were presented on January 18, 1983, and represented on October 3, 1983. The decision was announced on January 17, 1984.


Sony owned the Betamax corp, which manufactured and sold the first VCRs. Universal sued Sony, alleging that because they (Sony/Betamax) were manufacturing a device that could potentially be used for copyright infringement, they were thus liable for any infringement that did occur.

Supreme Court holding

The court ruled 5-4 in favor of Sony (Stevens, Burger, Brennan, O'Connor, and White in agreement. Marshall, Powell, Rehnquist, and Blackmun dissenting)

Reasons be added...

Majority opinion be added...

Dissenting opinion be added...

Subsequent history

Many of the same points of law that were litigated in this case are still being argued in various cases, particularly in light of recent peer-to-peer lawsuits. The DMCA modified the law this decision was based upon in several ways, and new interpretations are constantly being handed down.

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