Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc./Dissent Blackmun

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Dissenting Opinion

(p457) Justice Blackmun, with whom Justice Marshall, Justice Powell, and Justice Rehnquist join, dissenting.

A restatement of the facts and judicial history of this case is necessary, in my view, for a proper focus upon the issues. Respondents’ position is hardly so “unprecedented,” ante, at 421, in the copyright law, nor does it really embody a “gross generalization,” ante, at 436, or a “novel theory of liability,” ante, at 437, and the like, as the Court, in belittling their claims, describes the efforts of respondents.


The introduction of the home videotape recorder (VTR) upon the market has enabled millions of Americans to make recordings of television programs in their homes, for future and repeated viewing at their own convenience. While this practice has proved highly popular with owners of television sets and VTR’s, it understandably has been a matter of concern for the holders of copyrights in the recorded programs. A result is the present litigation, raising the issues whether the home recording of a copyrighted television program is an infringement of the copyright, and, if so, whether the manufacturers and distributors of VTR’s are liable as contributory infringers. I would hope that these questions ultimately will be considered seriously and in depth by the Congress and be resolved there, despite the fact that the Court’s decision today provides little incentive for congressional action. Our task in the meantime, however, is to resolve these issues as best we can in the light of ill-fitting existing copyright law.

It is no answer, of course, to refer to and stress, as the Court does, this Court’s “consistent deference to Congress” whenever “major technological innovations” appear. Ante, at 431. Perhaps a better and more accurate description is that the Court has tended to evade the hard issues when they arise in the area of copyright law. I see no reason for the Court to be particularly pleased with this tradition or to continue it. Indeed, it is fairly clear from the legislative history of the 1976 Act that Congress meant to change the old pattern and (p458) enact a statute that would cover new technologies, as well as old.


In 1976, respondents Universal City Studios, Inc., and Walt Disney Productions (Studios) brought this copyright infringement action in the United States District Court for the Central District of California against, among others, petitioners Sony Corporation, a Japanese corporation, and Sony Corporation of America, a New York corporation, the manufacturer and distributor, respectively, of the Betamax VTR. The Studios sought damages, profits, and a wide-ranging injunction against further sales or use of the Betamax or Betamax tapes.

The Betamax, like other VTR’s, presently is capable of recording television broadcasts off the air on videotape cassettes, and playing them back at a later time.[1] Two kinds of Betamax usage are at issue here.[2] The first is “time-shifting,” whereby the user records a program in order to watch it at a later time, and then records over it, and thereby erases the program, after a single viewing. The second is “library-building,” (p459) in which the user records a program in order to keep it for repeated viewing over a longer term. Sony’s advertisements, at various times, have suggested that Betamax users “record favorite shows” or “build a library.” Sony’s Betamax advertising has never contained warnings about copyright infringement, although a warning does appear in the Betamax operating instructions.

The Studios produce copyrighted “movies” and other works that they release to theaters and license for television broadcast. They also rent and sell their works on film and on prerecorded videotapes and videodiscs. License fees for television broadcasts are set according to audience ratings, compiled by rating services that do not measure any playbacks of videotapes. The Studios make the serious claim that VTR recording may result in a decrease in their revenue from licensing their works to television and from marketing them in other ways.

After a 5-week trial, the District Court, with a detailed opinion, ruled that home VTR recording did not infringe the Studios’ copyrights under either the Act of Mar. 4, 1909 (1909 Act), 35 Stat. 1075, as amended (formerly codified as 17 U.S.C. § 1 et seq.), or the Copyright Revision Act of 1976 (1976 Act), 90 Stat. 2541, 17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq. (1982 ed.).[3] The District Court also held that even if home VTR recording were an infringement, Sony could not be held liable under theories of direct infringement, contributory infringement, or vicarious liability. Finally, the court concluded that an injunction against sales of the Betamax would be inappropriate even if Sony were liable under one or more of those theories. 480 F. Supp. 429 (1979).

(p460) The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed in virtually every respect. 659 F.2d 963 (1981). It held that the 1909 Act and the 1976 Act contained no implied exemption for “home use” recording, that such recording was not “fair use,” and that the use of the Betamax to record the Studios’ copyrighted works infringed their copyrights. The Court of Appeals also held Sony liable for contributory infringement, reasoning that Sony knew and anticipated that the Betamax would be used to record copyrighted material off the air, and that Sony, indeed, had induced, caused, or materially contributed to the infringing conduct. The Court of Appeals remanded the case to the District Court for appropriate relief; it suggested that the District Court could consider the award of damages or a continuing royalty in lieu of an injunction. Id., at 976.


The Copyright Clause of the Constitution, Art. I, § 8, cl. 8, empowers Congress “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” This Nation’s initial copyright statute was passed by the First Congress. Entitled “An Act for the encouragement of learning,” it gave an author “the sole right and liberty of printing, reprinting, publishing and vending” his “map, chart, book or books” for a period of 14 years. Act of May 31, 1790, § 1, 1 Stat. 124. Since then, as the technology available to authors for creating and preserving their writings has changed, the governing statute has changed with it. By many amendments, and by complete revisions in 1831, 1870, 1909, and 1976,[4] authors’ rights have been (p461) expanded to provide protection to any “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression,” including “motion pictures and other audiovisual works.” 17 U.S.C. § 102(a) (1982 ed.).[5]

Section 106 of the 1976 Act grants the owner of a copyright a variety of exclusive rights in the copyrighted work,[6] including (p462) the right “to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords.”[7] This grant expressly is made subject to §§ 107118, which create a number of exemptions and limitations on the copyright owner’s rights. The most important of these sections, for present purposes, is § 107; that section states that “the fair use of a copyrighted work…is not an infringement of copyright.”[8]

The 1976 Act, like its predecessors,[9] does not give the copyright owner full and complete control over all possible (p463) uses of his work. If the work is put to some use not enumerated in § 106, the use is not an infringement. See Fortnightly Corp. v. United Artists Television, Inc., 392 U.S. 390, 393–395 (1968). Thus, before considering whether home videotaping comes within the scope of the fair use exemption, one first must inquire whether the practice appears to violate the exclusive right, granted in the first instance by § 106(1), “to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords.”


Although the word “copies” is in the plural in § 106(1), there can be no question that under the Act the making of even a single unauthorized copy is prohibited. The Senate and House Reports explain: “The references to ‘copies or phonorecords,’ although in the plural, are intended here and throughout the bill to include the singular (1 U.S.C. § 1).”[10] (p464) S. Rep. No. 94-473, p. 58 (1975) (1975 Senate Report); H.R. Rep. No. 94-1476, p. 61 (1976) (1976 House Report). The Reports then describe the reproduction right established by § 106(1):

“[T]he right ‘to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords’ means the right to produce a material object in which the work is duplicated, transcribed, imitated, or simulated in a fixed form from which it can be ‘perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.’ As under the present law, a copyrighted work would be infringed by reproducing it in whole or in any substantial part, and by duplicating it exactly or by imitation or simulation.” 1975 Senate Report 58; 1976 House Report 61.

The making of even a single videotape recording at home falls within this definition; the VTR user produces a material object from which the copyrighted work later can be perceived. Unless Congress intended a special exemption for the making of a single copy for personal use, I must conclude that VTR recording is contrary to the exclusive rights granted by § 106(1).

The 1976 Act and its accompanying Reports specify in some detail the situations in which a single copy of a copyrighted work may be made without infringement concerns. Section 108(a), for example, permits a library or archives “to reproduce no more than one copy or phonorecord of a work” for a patron, but only under very limited conditions; an entire work, moreover, can be copied only if it cannot be obtained elsewhere at a fair price.[11] § 108(e); see also § 112(a) (broadcaster (p465) may “make no more than one copy or phonorecord of a particular transmission program,” and only under certain conditions). In other respects, the making of single copies is permissible only within the limited confines of the fair use doctrine. The Senate Report, in a section headed “Single and multiple copying,” notes that the fair use doctrine would permit a teacher to make a single copy of a work for use in the classroom, but only if the work was not a “sizable” one such as a novel or treatise. 1975 Senate Report 63–64; accord, 1976 House Report 68–69, 71. Other situations in which the making of a single copy would be fair use are described in the House and Senate Reports.[12] But neither the statute nor its legislative history suggests any intent to create a general exemption for a single copy made for personal or private use.

Indeed, it appears that Congress considered and rejected the very possibility of a special private use exemption. The issue was raised early in the revision process, in one of the studies prepared for Congress under the supervision of the Copyright Office. A. Latman, Fair Use of Copyrighted Works (1958), reprinted in Study No. 14 for the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Copyright Law Revision, Studies Prepared for the Subcommittee on Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights, 86th Cong., 2d Sess., 1 (1960) (Latman Fair Use Study). This study found no reported case supporting the existence of an exemption for private use, although it noted that “the purpose and nature of a private use, and in some (p466) cases the small amount taken, might lead a court to apply the general principles of fair use in such a way as to deny liability.” Id., at 12. After reviewing a number of foreign copyright laws that contained explicit statutory exemptions for private or personal use, id., at 25, Professor Latman outlined several approaches that a revision bill could take to the general issue of exemptions and fair use. One of these was the adoption of particularized rules to cover specific situations, including “the field of personal use.” Id., at 33.[13]

Rejecting the latter alternative, the Register of Copyrights recommended that the revised copyright statute simply mention the doctrine of fair use and indicate its general scope. The Register opposed the adoption of rules and exemptions to cover specific situations,[14] preferring, instead, to rely on the judge-made fair use doctrine to resolve new problems as they arose. See Register’s 1961 Report 25; Register’s Supplementary Report 27–28.

The Register’s approach was reflected in the first copyright revision bills, drafted by the Copyright Office in 1964. (p467) These bills, like the 1976 Act, granted the copyright owner the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work, subject only to the exceptions set out in later sections. H.R. 11947/S. 3008, 88th Cong., 2d Sess., § 5(a) (1964). The primary exception was fair use, § 6, containing language virtually identical to § 107 of the 1976 Act. Although the copyright revision bills underwent change in many respects from their first introduction in 1964 to their final passage in 1976, these portions of the bills did not change.[15] I can conclude only that Congress, like the Register, intended to rely on the fair use doctrine, and not on a per se exemption for private use, to separate permissible copying from the impermissible.[16]

(p468) When Congress intended special and protective treatment for private use, moreover, it said so explicitly. One such explicit statement appears in § 106 itself. The copyright owner’s exclusive right to perform a copyrighted work, in contrast to his right to reproduce the work in copies, is limited. Section 106(4) grants a copyright owner the exclusive right to perform the work “publicly,” but does not afford the owner protection with respect to private performances by others. A motion picture is “performed” whenever its images are shown or its sounds are made audible. § 101. Like “sing[ing] (p469) a copyrighted lyric in the shower,” Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, 422 U.S. 151, 155 (1975), watching television at home with one’s family and friends is now considered a performance. 1975 Senate Report 59–60; 1976 House Report 63.[17] Home television viewing nevertheless does not infringe any copyright—but only because § 106(4) contains the word “publicly.”[18] See generally 1975 Senate Report 60–61; 1976 House Report 63–64; Register’s 1961 Report 29–30. No such distinction between public and private uses appears in § 106(1)’s prohibition on the making of copies.[19]

Similarly, an explicit reference to private use appears in § 108. Under that section, a library can make a copy for a patron only for specific types of private use: “private study, scholarship, or research.”[20] §§ 108(d)(1) and (e)(1); see 37 (p470) CFR § 201.14(b) (1983). Limits also are imposed on the extent of the copying and the type of institution that may make copies, and the exemption expressly is made inapplicable to motion pictures and certain other types of works. § 108(h). These limitations would be wholly superfluous if an entire copy of any work could be made by any person for private use.[21]


The District Court in this case nevertheless concluded that the 1976 Act contained an implied exemption for “home-use recording.” 480 F. Supp., at 444–446. The court relied primarily on the legislative history of a 1971 amendment to the 1909 Act, a reliance that this Court today does not duplicate. Ante, at 430, n. 11. That amendment, however, was addressed to the specific problem of commercial piracy of sound recordings. Act of Oct. 15, 1971, 85 Stat. 391 (1971 Amendment). The House Report on the 1971 Amendment, in a section entitled “Home Recording,” contains the following statement:

“In approving the creation of a limited copyright in sound recordings it is the intention of the Committee that this limited copyright not grant any broader rights than are accorded to other copyright proprietors under the existing title 17. Specifically, it is not the intention of the Committee to restrain the home recording, from broadcasts or from tapes or records, of recorded performances, (p471) where the home recording is for private use and with no purpose of reproducing or otherwise capitalizing commercially on it. This practice is common and unrestrained today, and the record producers and performers would be in no different position from that of the owners of copyright in recorded musical compositions over the past 20 years.” H.R. Rep. No. 92-487, p. 7 (1971) (1971 House Report).

Similar statements were made during House hearings on the bill[22] and on the House floor,[23] although not in the Senate (p472) proceedings. In concluding that these statements created a general exemption for home recording, the District Court, in my view, paid too little heed to the context in which the statements were made, and failed to consider the limited purpose of the 1971 Amendment and the structure of the 1909 Act.

Unlike television broadcasts and other types of motion pictures, sound recordings were not protected by copyright prior to the passage of the 1971 Amendment. Although the underlying musical work could be copyrighted, the 1909 Act provided no protection for a particular performer’s rendition of the work. Moreover, copyrighted musical works that had been recorded for public distribution were subject to a “compulsory license”: any person was free to record such a work upon payment of a 2-cent royalty to the copyright owner. § 1(e), 35 Stat. 1075–1076. While reproduction without payment of the royalty was an infringement under the 1909 Act, damages were limited to three times the amount of the unpaid royalty. § 25(e), 35 Stat. 1081–1082; Shapiro, Bernstein & Co. v. Goody, 248 F.2d 260, 262–263, 265 (CA2 1957), cert. denied, 355 U.S. 952 (1958). It was observed that the practical effect of these provisions was to legalize record piracy. See S. Rep. No. 92-72, p. 4 (1971); 1971 House Report 2.

In order to suppress this piracy, the 1971 Amendment extended copyright protection beyond the underlying work and to the sound recordings themselves. Congress chose, however, to provide only limited protection: owners of copyright in sound recordings were given the exclusive right “[t]o reproduce [their works] and distribute [them] to the public.” (p473) 1971 Amendment, § 1(a), 85 Stat. 391 (formerly codified as 17 U.S.C. § 1(f)).[24] This right was merely the right of commercial distribution. See 117 Cong. Rec. 34748–34749 (1971) (colloquy of Reps. Kazen and Kastenmeier) (“the bill protects copyrighted material that is duplicated for commercial purposes only”).

Against this background, the statements regarding home recording under the 1971 Amendment appear in a very different light. If home recording was “common and unrestrained” under the 1909 Act, see 1971 House Report 7, it was because sound recordings had no copyright protection and the owner of a copyright in the underlying musical work could collect no more than a 2-cent royalty plus 6 cents in damages for each unauthorized use. With so little at stake, it is not at all surprising that the Assistant Register “d[id] not see anybody going into anyone’s home and preventing this sort of thing.” 1971 House Hearings 23.

But the references to home sound recording in the 1971 Amendment’s legislative history demonstrate no congressional intent to create a generalized home-use exemption from copyright protection. Congress, having recognized that the 1909 Act had been unsuccessful in controlling home sound recording, addressed only the specific problem of commercial record piracy. To quote Assistant Register Ringer again, home use was “not what this legislation [was] addressed to.” Id., at 22.[25]

(p474) While the 1971 Amendment narrowed the sound recordings loophole in then existing copyright law, motion pictures and other audiovisual works have been accorded full copyright protection since at least 1912, see Act of Aug. 24, 1912, 37 Stat. 488, and perhaps before, see Edison v. Lubin, 122 F. 240 (CA3 1903), appeal dism’d, 195 U.S. 625 (1904). Congress continued this protection in the 1976 Act. Unlike the sound recording rights created by the 1971 Amendment, the reproduction rights associated with motion pictures under § 106(1) are not limited to reproduction for public distribution; the copyright owner’s right to reproduce the work exists independently, and the “mere duplication of a copy may constitute an infringement even if it is never distributed.” Register’s Supplementary Report 16; see 1975 Senate Report 57 and 1976 House Report 61. Moreover, the 1976 Act was intended as a comprehensive treatment of all aspects of copyright law. The Reports accompanying the 1976 Act, unlike the 1971 House Report, contain no suggestion that home-use recording is somehow outside the scope of this all-inclusive statute. It was clearly the intent of Congress that no additional exemptions were to be implied.[26]

(p475) I therefore find in the 1976 Act no implied exemption to cover the home taping of television programs, whether it be for a single copy, for private use, or for home use. Taping a copyrighted television program is infringement unless it is permitted by the fair use exemption contained in § 107 of the 1976 Act. I now turn to that issue.


Fair Use

The doctrine of fair use has been called, with some justification, “the most troublesome in the whole law of copyright.” Dellar v. Samuel Goldwyn, Inc., 104 F.2d 661, 662 (CA2 1939); see Triangle Publications, Inc. v. Knight-Ridder Newspapers, Inc., 626 F.2d 1171, 1174 (CA5 1980); Meeropol v. Nizer, 560 F.2d 1061, 1068 (CA2 1977), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 1013 (1978). Although courts have constructed lists of factors to be considered in determining whether a particular use is fair,[27] no fixed criteria have emerged by which that (p476) determination can be made. This Court thus far has provided no guidance; although fair use issues have come here twice, on each occasion the Court was equally divided and no opinion was forthcoming. Williams & Wilkins Co. v. United States, 203 Ct. Cl. 74, 487 F.2d 1345 (1973), aff’d, 420 U.S. 376 (1975); Benny v. Loew’s Inc., 239 F.2d 532 (CA9 1956), aff’d sub nom. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. v. Loew’s Inc., 356 U.S. 43 (1958).

Nor did Congress provide definitive rules when it codified the fair use doctrine in the 1976 Act; it simply incorporated a list of factors “to be considered”: the “purpose and character of the use,” the “nature of the copyrighted work,” the “amount and substantiality of the portion used,” and, perhaps the most important, the “effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work” (emphasis supplied). § 107. No particular weight, however, was assigned to any of these, and the list was not intended to be exclusive. The House and Senate Reports explain that § 107 does no more than give “statutory recognition” to the fair use doctrine; it was intended “to restate the present judicial doctrine of fair use, not to change, narrow, or enlarge it in any way.” 1976 House Report 66. See 1975 Senate Report 62; S. Rep. No. 93-983, p. 116 (1974); H.R. Rep. No. 83, 90th Cong., 1st Sess., 32 (1967); H.R. Rep. No. 2237, 89th Cong., 2d Sess., 61 (1966).



Despite this absence of clear standards, the fair use doctrine plays a crucial role in the law of copyright. The purpose of copyright protection, in the words of the Constitution, is to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” Copyright is based on the belief that by granting authors the exclusive rights to reproduce their works, they are given an incentive to create, and that “encouragement of individual effort by personal gain is the best way to advance public welfare through the talents of authors and inventors in ‘Science and the useful Arts.’” Mazer v. Stein, 347 U.S. 201, 219 (1954). The monopoly created by copyright thus rewards the individual author in order to benefit the public. Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, 422 U.S., at 156; Fox Film Corp. v. Doyal, 286 U.S. 123, 127–128 (1932); see H.R. Rep. No. 2222, 60th Cong., 2d Sess., 7 (1909).

There are situations, nevertheless, in which strict enforcement of this monopoly would inhibit the very “Progress of Science and useful Arts” that copyright is intended to promote. An obvious example is the researcher or scholar whose own work depends on the ability to refer to and to quote the work of prior scholars. Obviously, no author could create a new work if he were first required to repeat the research of every author who had gone before him.[28] The scholar, like the ordinary user, of course could be left to bargain with each copyright owner for permission to quote from or refer to prior works. But there is a crucial difference between the scholar and the ordinary user. When the ordinary user decides that the owner’s price is too high, and forgoes use of the work, only the individual is the loser. When the scholar forgoes the use of a prior work, not only does his own (p478) work suffer, but the public is deprived of his contribution to knowledge. The scholar’s work, in other words, produces external benefits from which everyone profits. In such a case, the fair use doctrine acts as a form of subsidy—albeit at the first author’s expense—to permit the second author to make limited use of the first author’s work for the public good. See Latman Fair Use Study 31; Gordon, Fair Use as Market Failure: A Structural Analysis of the Betamax Case and its Predecessors, 82 Colum. L. Rev. 1600, 1630 (1982).

A similar subsidy may be appropriate in a range of areas other than pure scholarship. The situations in which fair use is most commonly recognized are listed in § 107 itself; fair use may be found when a work is used “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching,…scholarship, or research.” The House and Senate Reports expand on this list somewhat,[29] and other examples may be found in the case law.[30] Each of these uses, however, reflects a common theme: each is a productive use, resulting in some added benefit to the public beyond that produced by the first author’s work.[31] The fair use doctrine, in other words, permits works (p479) to be used for “socially laudable purposes.” See Copyright Office, Briefing Papers on Current Issues, reprinted in 1975 House Hearings 2051, 2055. I am aware of no case in which the reproduction of a copyrighted work for the sole benefit of the user has been held to be fair use.[32]

I do not suggest, of course, that every productive use is a fair use. A finding of fair use still must depend on the facts of the individual case, and on whether, under the circumstances, it is reasonable to expect the user to bargain with the copyright owner for use of the work. The fair use doctrine must strike a balance between the dual risks created by the copyright system: on the one hand, that depriving authors of their monopoly will reduce their incentive to create, and, on the other, that granting authors a complete monopoly will reduce the creative ability of others.[33] The inquiry is (p480) necessarily a flexible one, and the endless variety of situations that may arise precludes the formulation of exact rules. But when a user reproduces an entire work and uses it for its original purpose, with no added benefit to the public, the doctrine of fair use usually does not apply. There is then no need whatsoever to provide the ordinary user with a fair use subsidy at the author’s expense.

The making of a videotape recording for home viewing is an ordinary rather than a productive use of the Studios’ copyrighted works. The District Court found that “Betamax owners use the copy for the same purpose as the original. They add nothing of their own.” 480 F. Supp., at 453. Although applying the fair use doctrine to home VTR recording, as Sony argues, may increase public access to material broadcast free over the public airwaves, I think Sony’s argument misconceives the nature of copyright. Copyright gives the author a right to limit or even to cut off access to his work. Fox Film Corp. v. Doyal, 286 U.S., at 127. A VTR recording creates no public benefit sufficient to justify limiting this right. Nor is this right extinguished by the copyright owner’s choice to make the work available over the airwaves. Section 106 of the 1976 Act grants the copyright owner the exclusive right to control the performance and the reproduction of his work, and the fact that he has licensed a single television performance is really irrelevant to the existence of his right to control its reproduction. Although a television broadcast may be free to the viewer, this fact is equally irrelevant; a book borrowed from the public library may not be copied any more freely than a book that is purchased.

It may be tempting, as, in my view, the Court today is tempted, to stretch the doctrine of fair use so as to permit unfettered use of this new technology in order to increase access (p481) to television programming. But such an extension risks eroding the very basis of copyright law, by depriving authors of control over their works and consequently of their incentive to create.[34] Even in the context of highly productive educational uses, Congress has avoided this temptation; in passing the 1976 Act, Congress made it clear that off-the-air videotaping was to be permitted only in very limited situations. See 1976 House Report 71; 1975 Senate Report 64. And, the Senate Report adds, “[t]he committee does not intend to suggest…that off-the-air recording for convenience would under any circumstances, be considered ‘fair use.’” Id., at 66. I cannot disregard these admonitions.


I recognize, nevertheless, that there are situations where permitting even an unproductive use would have no effect on the author’s incentive to create, that is, where the use would not affect the value of, or the market for, the author’s work. Photocopying an old newspaper clipping to send to a friend (p482) may be an example; pinning a quotation on one’s bulletin board may be another. In each of these cases, the effect on the author is truly de minimis. Thus, even though these uses provide no benefit to the public at large, no purpose is served by preserving the author’s monopoly, and the use may be regarded as fair.

Courts should move with caution, however, in depriving authors of protection from unproductive “ordinary” uses. As has been noted above, even in the case of a productive use, § 107(4) requires consideration of “the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work” (emphasis added). “[A] particular use which may seem to have little or no economic impact on the author’s rights today can assume tremendous importance in times to come.” Register’s Supplementary Report 14. Although such a use may seem harmless when viewed in isolation, “[i]solated instances of minor infringements, when multiplied many times, become in the aggregate a major inroad on copyright that must be prevented.” 1975 Senate Report 65.

I therefore conclude that, at least when the proposed use is an unproductive one, a copyright owner need prove only a potential for harm to the market for or the value of the copyrighted work. See 3 M. Nimmer, Copyright 13.05[E]4.[c], p. 13-84 (1983). Proof of actual harm, or even probable harm, may be impossible in an area where the effect of a new technology is speculative, and requiring such proof would present the “real danger…of confining the scope of an author’s rights on the basis of the present technology so that, as the years go by, his copyright loses much of its value because of unforeseen technical advances.” Register’s Supplementary Report 14. Infringement thus would be found if the copyright owner demonstrates a reasonable possibility that harm will result from the proposed use. When the use is one that creates no benefit to the public at large, copyright protection should not be denied on the basis that a new technology that may result in harm has not yet done so.

(p483) The Studios have identified a number of ways in which VTR recording could damage their copyrights. VTR recording could reduce their ability to market their works in movie theaters and through the rental or sale of prerecorded videotapes or videodiscs; it also could reduce their rerun audience, and consequently the license fees available to them for repeated showings. Moreover, advertisers may be willing to pay for only “live” viewing audiences, if they believe VTR viewers will delete commercials or if rating services are unable to measure VTR use; if this is the case, VTR recording could reduce the license fees the Studios are able to charge even for first-run showings. Library-building may raise the potential for each of the types of harm identified by the Studios, and time-shifting may raise the potential for substantial harm as well.[35]

Although the District Court found no likelihood of harm from VTR use, 480 F. Supp., at 468, I conclude that it applied an incorrect substantive standard and misallocated the (p484) burden of proof. The District Court reasoned that the Studios had failed to prove that library-building would occur “to any significant extent,” id., at 467; that the Studios’ prerecorded videodiscs could compete with VTR recordings and were “arguably…more desirable,” ibid.; that it was “not clear that movie audiences will decrease,” id., at 468; and that the practice of deleting commercials “may be too tedious” for many viewers, ibid. To the extent any decrease in advertising revenues would occur, the court concluded that the Studios had “marketing alternatives at hand to recoup some of that predicted loss.” Id., at 452. Because the Studios’ prediction of harm was “based on so many assumptions and on a system of marketing which is rapidly changing,” the court was “hesitant to identify ‘probable effects’ of home-use copying.” Ibid.

The District Court’s reluctance to engage in prediction in this area is understandable, but, in my view, the court was mistaken in concluding that the Studios should bear the risk created by this uncertainty. The Studios have demonstrated a potential for harm, which has not been, and could not be, refuted at this early stage of technological development.

The District Court’s analysis of harm, moreover, failed to consider the effect of VTR recording on “the potential market for or the value of the copyrighted work,” as required by § 107(4).[36] The requirement that a putatively infringing use (p485) of a copyrighted work, to be “fair,” must not impair a “potential” market for the work has two implications. First, an infringer cannot prevail merely by demonstrating that the copyright holder suffered no net harm from the infringer’s action. Indeed, even a showing that the infringement has resulted in a net benefit to the copyright holder will not suffice. Rather, the infringer must demonstrate that he had not impaired the copyright holder’s ability to demand compensation from (or to deny access to) any group who would otherwise be willing to pay to see or hear the copyrighted work. Second, the fact that a given market for a copyrighted work would not be available to the copyright holder were it not for the infringer’s activities does not permit the infringer to exploit that market without compensating the copyright holder. See Iowa State University Research Foundation, Inc. v. American Broadcasting Cos., 621 F.2d 57 (CA2 1980).

In this case, the Studios and their amici demonstrate that the advent of the VTR technology created a potential market for their copyrighted programs. That market consists of those persons who find it impossible or inconvenient to watch the programs at the time they are broadcast, and who wish to watch them at other times. These persons are willing to pay for the privilege of watching copyrighted work at their convenience, as is evidenced by the fact that they are willing to pay for VTR’s and tapes; undoubtedly, most also would be willing to pay some kind of royalty to copyright holders. The Studios correctly argue that they have been deprived of the ability to exploit this sizable market.

It is thus apparent from the record and from the findings of the District Court that time-shifting does have a substantial (p486) adverse effect upon the “potential market for” the Studios’ copyrighted works. Accordingly, even under the formulation of the fair use doctrine advanced by Sony, time-shifting cannot be deemed a fair use.


Contributory Infringement

From the Studios’ perspective, the consequences of home VTR recording are the same as if a business had taped the Studios’ works off the air, duplicated the tapes, and sold or rented them to members of the public for home viewing. The distinction is that home VTR users do not record for commercial advantage; the commercial benefit accrues to the manufacturer and distributors of the Betamax. I thus must proceed to discuss whether the manufacturer and distributors can be held contributorily liable if the product they sell is used to infringe.

It is well established that liability for copyright infringement can be imposed on persons other than those who actually carry out the infringing activity. Kalem Co. v. Harper Brothers, 222 U.S. 55, 62–63 (1911); 3 M. Nimmer, Copyright 12.04[A] (1983); see Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, 422 U.S., at 160 , n.11; Buck v. Jewell-LaSalle Realty Co., 283 U.S. 191, 198 (1931). Although the liability provision of the 1976 Act provides simply that “[a]nyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner…is an infringer of the copyright,” 17 U.S.C. § 501(a) (1982 ed.), the House and Senate Reports demonstrate that Congress intended to retain judicial doctrines of contributory infringement. 1975 Senate Report 57; 1976 House Report 61.[37]

(p487) The doctrine of contributory copyright infringement, however, is not well defined. One of the few attempts at definition appears in Gershwin Publishing Corp. v. Columbia Artists Management, Inc., 443 F.2d 1159 (CA2 1971). In that case the Second Circuit stated that “one who, with knowledge of the infringing activity, induces, causes or materially contributes to the infringing conduct of another, may be held liable as a ‘contributory’ infringer.” Id., at 1162 (footnote omitted). While I have no quarrel with this general statement, it does not easily resolve the present case; the District Court and the Court of Appeals, both purporting to apply it, reached diametrically opposite results.


In absolving Sony from liability, the District Court reasoned that Sony had no direct involvement with individual Betamax users, did not participate in any off-the-air copying, and did not know that such copying was an infringement of the Studios’ copyright. 480 F. Supp., at 460. I agree with the Gershwin court that contributory liability may be imposed even when the defendant has no formal control over the infringer. The defendant in Gershwin was a concert promoter operating through local concert associations that it sponsored; it had no formal control over the infringing performers themselves. 443 F.2d, at 1162–1163. See also Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, 422 U.S., at 160, n.11. Moreover, a finding of contributory infringement has never depended on actual knowledge of particular instances of infringement; it is sufficient that the defendant have reason to know that infringement is taking place. 443 F.2d, (p488) at 1162; see Screen Gems-Columbia Music, Inc. v. Mark-Fi Records, Inc., 256 F. Supp. 399 (SDNY 1966).[38] In the so-called “dance hall” cases, in which questions of contributory infringement arise with some frequency, proprietors of entertainment establishments routinely are held liable for unauthorized performances on their premises, even when they have no knowledge that copyrighted works are being performed. In effect, the proprietors in those cases are charged with constructive knowledge of the performances.[39]

(p489) Nor is it necessary that the defendant be aware that the infringing activity violates the copyright laws. Section 504(c)(2) of the 1976 Act provides for a reduction in statutory damages when an infringer proves he “was not aware and had no reason to believe that his or her acts constituted an infringement of copyright,” but the statute establishes no general exemption for those who believe their infringing activities are legal. Moreover, such an exemption would be meaningless in a case such as this, in which prospective relief is sought; once a court has established that the copying at issue is infringement, the defendants are necessarily aware of that fact for the future. It is undisputed in this case that Sony had reason to know the Betamax would be used by some owners to tape copyrighted works off the air. See 480 F. Supp., at 459–460.

The District Court also concluded that Sony had not caused, induced, or contributed materially to any infringing activities of Betamax owners. Id., at 460. In a case of this kind, however, causation can be shown indirectly; it does not depend on evidence that particular Betamax owners relied on particular advertisements. In an analogous case decided just two Terms ago, this Court approved a lower court’s conclusion that liability for contributory trademark infringement could be imposed on a manufacturer who “suggested, even by implication” that a retailer use the manufacturer’s goods to infringe the trademark of another. Inwood Laboratories, Inc. v. Ives Laboratories, Inc., 456 U.S. 844, 851 (1982); see id., at 860 (opinion concurring in result). I think this standard is equally appropriate in the copyright context.

The District Court found that Sony has advertised the Betamax as suitable for off-the-air recording of “favorite shows,” “novels for television,” and “classic movies,” 480 F. Supp., at 436, with no visible warning that such recording (p490) could constitute copyright infringement. It is only with the aid of the Betamax or some other VTR, that it is possible today for home television viewers to infringe copyright by recording off-the-air. Off-the-air recording is not only a foreseeable use for the Betamax, but indeed is its intended use. Under the circumstances, I agree with the Court of Appeals that if off-the-air recording is an infringement of copyright, Sony has induced and materially contributed to the infringing conduct of Betamax owners.[40]


Sony argues that the manufacturer or seller of a product used to infringe is absolved from liability whenever the product can be put to any substantial noninfringing use. Brief for Petitioners 41–42. The District Court so held, borrowing the “staple article of commerce” doctrine governing liability for contributory infringement of patents. See 35 U.S.C. § 271.[41] This Court today is much less positive. See ante, (p491) at 440442. I do not agree that this technical judge-made doctrine of patent law, based in part on considerations irrelevant to the field of copyright, see generally Dawson Chemical Co. v. Rohm & Haas Co., 448 U.S. 176, 187–199 (1980), should be imported wholesale into copyright law. Despite their common constitutional source, see U.S. Const., Art. I, § 8, cl. 8, patent and copyright protections have not developed in a parallel fashion, and this Court in copyright cases in the past has borrowed patent concepts only sparingly. See Bobbs-Merrill Co. v. Straus, 210 U.S. 339, 345–346 (1908).

I recognize, however, that many of the concerns underlying the “staple article of commerce” doctrine are present in copyright law as well. As the District Court noted, if liability for contributory infringement were imposed on the manufacturer or seller of every product used to infringe—a typewriter, a camera, a photocopying machine—the “wheels of commerce” would be blocked. 480 F. Supp., at 461; see also Kalem Co. v. Harper Brothers, 222 U.S., at 62.

I therefore conclude that if a significant portion of the product’s use is noninfringing, the manufacturers and sellers cannot be held contributorily liable for the product’s infringing uses. See ante, at 440441. If virtually all of the product’s use, however, is to infringe, contributory liability may be imposed; if no one would buy the product for noninfringing purposes alone, it is clear that the manufacturer is purposely profiting from the infringement, and that liability is appropriately imposed. In such a case, the copyright owner’s monopoly would not be extended beyond its proper bounds; the manufacturer of such a product contributes to the infringing activities of others and profits directly thereby, while (p492) providing no benefit to the public sufficient to justify the infringement.

The Court of Appeals concluded that Sony should be held liable for contributory infringement, reasoning that “[v]ideotape recorders are manufactured, advertised, and sold for the primary purpose of reproducing television programming,” and “[v]irtually all television programming is copyrighted material.” 659 F.2d, at 975. While I agree with the first of these propositions,[42] the second, for me, is problematic. The key question is not the amount of television programming that is copyrighted, but rather the amount of VTR usage that is infringing.[43] Moreover, the parties and their amici have argued vigorously about both the amount of television programming that is covered by copyright and the amount for which permission to copy has been given. The proportion of VTR recording that is infringing is ultimately a question of fact,[44] and the District Court specifically declined to make (p493) findings on the “percentage of legal versus illegal home-use recording.” 480 F. Supp., at 468. In light of my view of the law, resolution of this factual question is essential. I therefore would remand the case for further consideration of this by the District Court.


The Court has adopted an approach very different from the one I have outlined. It is my view that the Court’s approach alters dramatically the doctrines of fair use and contributory infringement as they have been developed by Congress and the courts. Should Congress choose to respond to the Court’s decision, the old doctrines can be resurrected. As it stands, however, the decision today erodes much of the coherence that these doctrines have struggled to achieve.

The Court’s disposition of the case turns on its conclusion that time-shifting is a fair use. Because both parties agree that time-shifting is the primary use of VTR’s, that conclusion, if correct, would settle the issue of Sony’s liability under almost any definition of contributory infringement. The Court concludes that time-shifting is fair use for two reasons. Each is seriously flawed.

The Court’s first reason for concluding that time-shifting is fair use is its claim that many copyright holders have no objection to time-shifting, and that “respondents have no right to prevent other copyright holders from authorizing it for their programs.” Ante, at 442. The Court explains that a finding of contributory infringement would “inevitably frustrate the interests of broadcasters in reaching the portion of their audience that is available only through time-shifting.” (p494) Ante, at 446. Such reasoning, however, simply confuses the question of liability with the difficulty of fashioning an appropriate remedy. It may be that an injunction prohibiting the sale of VTR’s would harm the interests of copyright holders who have no objection to others making copies of their programs. But such concerns should and would be taken into account in fashioning an appropriate remedy once liability has been found. Remedies may well be available that would not interfere with authorized time-shifting at all. The Court of Appeals mentioned the possibility of a royalty payment that would allow VTR sales and time-shifting to continue unabated, and the parties may be able to devise other narrowly tailored remedies. Sony may be able, for example, to build a VTR that enables broadcasters to scramble the signal of individual programs and “jam” the unauthorized recording of them. Even were an appropriate remedy not available at this time, the Court should not misconstrue copyright holders’ rights in a manner that prevents enforcement of them when, through development of better techniques, an appropriate remedy becomes available.[45]

(p495) The Court’s second stated reason for finding that Sony is not liable for contributory infringement is its conclusion that even unauthorized time-shifting is fair use. Ante, at 447 et seq. This conclusion is even more troubling. The Court begins by suggesting that the fair use doctrine operates as a general “equitable rule of reason.” That interpretation mischaracterizes the doctrine, and simply ignores the language of the statute. Section 107 establishes the fair use doctrine “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching,…scholarship, or research.” These are all productive uses. It is true that the legislative history states repeatedly that the doctrine must be applied flexibly on a case-by-case basis, but those references were only in the context of productive uses. Such a limitation on fair use comports with its purpose, which is to facilitate the creation of new works. There is no indication that the fair use doctrine has any application for purely personal consumption on the scale involved in this case,[46] and the Court’s application of it here deprives fair use of the major cohesive force that has guided evolution of the doctrine in the past.

(p496) Having bypassed the initial hurdle for establishing that a use is fair, the Court then purports to apply to time-shifting the four factors explicitly stated in the statute. The first is “the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.” § 107(1). The Court confidently describes time-shifting as a noncommercial, nonprofit activity. It is clear, however, that personal use of programs that have been copied without permission is not what § 107(1) protects. The intent of the section is to encourage users to engage in activities the primary benefit of which accrues to others. Time-shifting involves no such humanitarian impulse. It is likewise something of a mischaracterization of time-shifting to describe it as noncommercial in the sense that that term is used in the statute. As one commentator has observed, time-shifting is noncommercial in the same sense that stealing jewelry and wearing it—instead of reselling it—is noncommercial.[47] Purely consumptive uses are certainly not what the fair use doctrine was designed to protect, and the awkwardness of applying the statutory language to time-shifting only makes clearer that fair use was designed to protect only uses that are productive.

The next two statutory factors are all but ignored by the Court—though certainly not because they have no applicability. The second factor—“the nature of the copyrighted work”—strongly supports the view that time-shifting is an infringing use. The rationale guiding application of this factor is that certain types of works, typically those involving “more of diligence than of originality or inventiveness,” New York Times Co. v. Roxbury Data Interface, Inc., 434 F. Supp. 217, 221 (NJ 1977), require less copyright protection than other original works. Thus, for example, informational (p497) works, such as news reports, that readily lend themselves to productive use by others, are less protected than creative works of entertainment. Sony’s own surveys indicate that entertainment shows account for more than 80% of the programs recorded by Betamax owners.[48]

The third statutory factor—“the amount and substantiality of the portion used”—is even more devastating to the Court’s interpretation. It is undisputed that virtually all VTR owners record entire works, see 480 F. Supp., at 454, thereby creating an exact substitute for the copyrighted original. Fair use is intended to allow individuals engaged in productive uses to copy small portions of original works that will facilitate their own productive endeavors. Time-shifting bears no resemblance to such activity, and the complete duplication that it involves might alone be sufficient to preclude a finding of fair use. It is little wonder that the Court has chosen to ignore this statutory factor.[49]

The fourth factor requires an evaluation of “the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.” This is the factor upon which the Court focuses, but once again, the Court has misread the statute. As mentioned above, the statute requires a court to consider the effect of the use on the potential market for the copyrighted work. The Court has struggled mightily to show that VTR use has not reduced the value of the Studios’ copyrighted works in their present markets. Even if true, that showing only begins the proper inquiry. The development (p498) of the VTR has created a new market for the works produced by the Studios. That market consists of those persons who desire to view television programs at times other than when they are broadcast, and who therefore purchase VTR recorders to enable them to time-shift.[50] Because time-shifting of the Studios’ copyrighted works involves the copying of them, however, the Studios are entitled to share in the benefits of that new market. Those benefits currently go to Sony through Betamax sales. Respondents therefore can show harm from VTR use simply by showing that the value of their copyrights would increase if they were compensated for the copies that are used in the new market. The existence of this effect is self-evident.

Because of the Court’s conclusion concerning the legality of time-shifting, it never addresses the amount of noninfringing use that a manufacturer must show to absolve itself from liability as a contributory infringer. Thus, it is difficult to discuss how the Court’s test for contributory infringement would operate in practice under a proper analysis of time-shifting. One aspect of the test as it is formulated by the Court, however, particularly deserves comment. The Court explains that a manufacturer of a product is not liable for contributory infringement as long as the product is “capable of substantial noninfringing uses.” Ante, at 442 (emphasis supplied). Such a definition essentially eviscerates the concept of contributory infringement. Only the most unimaginative manufacturer would be unable to demonstrate that a image-duplicating product is “capable” of substantial noninfringing uses. Surely Congress desired to prevent the sale of products that are used almost exclusively to infringe copyrights; (p499) the fact that noninfringing uses exist presumably would have little bearing on that desire.

More importantly, the rationale for the Court’s narrow standard of contributory infringement reveals that, once again, the Court has confused the issue of liability with that of remedy. The Court finds that a narrow definition of contributory infringement is necessary in order to protect “the rights of others freely to engage in substantially unrelated areas of commerce.” Ante, at 442. But application of the contributory infringement doctrine implicates such rights only if the remedy attendant upon a finding of liability were an injunction against the manufacture of the product in question. The issue of an appropriate remedy is not before the Court at this time, but it seems likely that a broad injunction is not the remedy that would be ordered. It is unfortunate that the Court has allowed its concern over a remedy to infect its analysis of liability.


The Court of Appeals, having found Sony liable, remanded for the District Court to consider the propriety of injunctive or other relief. Because of my conclusion as to the issue of liability, I, too, would not decide here what remedy would be appropriate if liability were found. I concur, however, in the Court of Appeals’ suggestion that an award of damages, or continuing royalties, or even some form of limited injunction, may well be an appropriate means of balancing the equities in this case.[51] Although I express no view on the merits (p500) of any particular proposal, I am certain that, if Sony were found liable in this case, the District Court would be able to fashion appropriate relief. The District Court might conclude, of course, that a continuing royalty or other equitable relief is not feasible. The Studios then would be relegated to statutory damages for proven instances of infringement. But the difficulty of fashioning relief, and the possibility that complete relief may be unavailable, should not affect our interpretation of the statute.

Like so many other problems created by the interaction of copyright law with a new technology, “[t]here can be no really satisfactory solution to the problem presented here, until Congress acts.” Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, 422 U.S., at 167 (dissenting opinion). But in the absence of a congressional solution, courts cannot avoid difficult problems by refusing to apply the law. We must “take the Copyright Act…as we find it,” Fortnightly Corp. v. United Artists Television, Inc., 392 U.S., at 401–402, and “do as little damage as possible to traditional copyright principles…until the Congress legislates.” Id., at 404 (dissenting opinion).


  1. The Betamax has three primary components: a tuner that receives television (“RF”) signals broadcast over the airwaves; an adapter that converts the RF signals into audio-video signals; and a recorder that places the audio-video signals on magnetic tape. Sony also manufactures VTR’s without built-in tuners; these are capable of playing back prerecorded tapes and recording home movies on videotape, but cannot record off the air. Since the Betamax has its own tuner, it can be used to record off one channel while another channel is being watched.

    The Betamax is available with auxiliary features, including a timer, a pause control, and a fast-forward control; these allow Betamax owners to record programs without being present, to avoid (if they are present) recording commercial messages, and to skip over commercials while playing back the recording. Videotape is reusable; the user erases its record by recording over it.

  2. This case involves only the home recording for home use of television programs broadcast free over the airwaves. No issue is raised concerning cable or pay television, or the sharing or trading of tapes.
  3. At the trial, the Studios proved 32 individual instances where their copyrighted works were recorded on Betamax VTR’s. Two of these instances occurred after January 1, 1978, the primary effective date of the 1976 Act; all the others occurred while the 1909 Act was still effective. My analysis focuses primarily on the 1976 Act, but the principles governing copyright protection for these works are the same under either Act.
  4. Act of Feb. 3, 1831, ch. 16, 4 Stat. 436; Act of July 8, 1870, §§ 85–111, 16 Stat. 212–217; Act of Mar. 4, 1909, 35 Stat. 1075 (formerly codified as 17 U.S.C. § 1 et seq.); Copyright Revision Act of 1976, 90 Stat. 2541 (codified as 17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq. (1982 ed.)).
  5. Section 102(a) provides:

    “Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Works of authorship include the following categories:

    “(1) literary works;

    “(2) musical works, including any accompanying words;

    “(3) dramatic works, including any accompanying music;

    “(4) pantomimes and choreographic works;

    “(5) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;

    “(6) motion pictures and other audiovisual works; and

    “(7) sound recordings.”

    Definitions of terms used in § 102(a)(6) are provided by § 101: “Audiovisual works” are “works that consist of a series of related images which are intrinsically intended to be shown by the use of machines, or devices such as projectors, viewers, or electronic equipment, together with accompanying sounds, if any, regardless of the nature of the material objects, such as films or tapes, in which the works are embodies.” And “motion pictures” are “audiovisual works consisting of a series of related images which, when shown in succession, impart an impression of motion, together with accompanying sounds, if any.” Most commercial television programs, if fixed on film or tape at the time of broadcast or before, qualify as “audiovisual works.” Since the categories set forth in § 102(a) are not mutually exclusive, a particular television program may also qualify for protection as a dramatic, musical, or other type of work.

  6. Section 106 provides:

    “Subject to sections 107 through 118, the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:

    “(1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;

    “(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;

    “(3) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;

    “(4) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly; and

    “(5) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly.”

  7. A “phonorecord” is defined by § 101 as a reproduction of sounds other than sounds accompanying an audiovisual work, while a “copy” is a reproduction of a work in any form other than a phonorecord.
  8. Section 107 provides:

    “Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—

    “(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

    “(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

    “(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

    “(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.”

    Section 101 makes it clear that the four factors listed in this section are “illustrative and not limitative.”

  9. The 1976 Act was the product of a revision effort lasting more than 20 years. Spurred by the recognition that “significant developments in technology and communications” had rendered the 1909 Act inadequate, S. Rep. No. 94-473, p. 47 (1975); see H.R. Rep. No. 94-1476, p. 47 (1976), Congress in 1955 authorized the Copyright Office to prepare a series of studies on all aspects of the existing copyright law. Thirty-four studies were prepared and presented to Congress. The Register of Copyrights drafted a comprehensive report with recommendations, House Committee on the Judiciary, Copyright Law Revision, Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law, 87th Cong., 1st Sess. (Comm. Print 1961) (Register’s 1961 Report), and general revision bills were introduced near the end of the 88th Congress in 1964. H. R. 11947/S. 3008, 88th Cong., 2d Sess. (1964). The Register issued a second report in 1965, with revised recommendations. House Committee on the Judiciary, Copyright Law Revision, pt. 6, Supplementary Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law: 1965 Revision Bill, 89th Cong., 1st Sess. (Comm. Print 1965) (Register’s Supplementary Report). Action on copyright revision was delayed from 1967 to 1974 by a dispute on cable television, see generally Second Supplementary Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law: 1975 Revision Bill, ch. V, pp. 2–26 (Draft Oct.–Dec. 1975) (Register’s Second Supplementary Report), but a compromise led to passage of the present Act in 1976.
  10. Title 1 U.S.C. § 1 provides in relevant part:

    “In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, unless the context indicates otherwise…words importing the plural include the singular….”

  11. The library photocopying provisions of § 108 do not excuse any person who requests “a copy” from a library if the requester’s use exceeds fair use. § 108(f)(2). Moreover, a library is absolved from liability for the unsupervised use of its copying equipment provided that the equipment bears a notice informing users that “the making of a copy” may violate the copyright law. § 108(f)(1).
  12. For example, “the making of a single copy or phonorecord by an individual as a free service for a blind person” would be a fair use, as would “a single copy reproduction of an excerpt from a copyrighted work by a calligrapher for a single client” or “a single reproduction of excerpts from a copyrighted work by a student calligrapher or teacher in a learning situation.” 1975 Senate Report 66–67; see 1976 House Report 73–74. Application of the fair use doctrine in these situations, of course, would be unnecessary if the 1976 Act created a general exemption for the making of a single copy.
  13. Professor Latman made special mention of the “personal use” issue because the area was one that “has become disturbed by recent developments…. Photoduplication devices may make authors’ and publishers’ groups apprehensive. The Copyright Charter recently approved by [the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers] emphasizes the concern of authors over ‘private’ uses which, because of technological developments, are said to be competing seriously with the author’s economic interests.” Latman Fair Use Study 33–34.
  14. The one exemption proposed by the Register, permitting a library to make a single photocopy of an out-of-print work and of excerpts that a requester certified were needed for research, met with opposition and was not included in the bills initially introduced in Congress. See Register’s 1961 Report 26; H. R. 11947/S. 3008, 88th Cong., 2d Sess. (1964); Register’s Supplementary Report 26. A library copying provision was restored to the bill in 1969, after pressure from library associations. Register’s Second Supplementary Report, ch. III, pp. 10–11; see S. 543, 91st Cong., 1st Sess., 108 (Comm. Print, Dec. 10, 1969); 1975 Senate Report 48.
  15. The 1964 bills provided that the fair use of copyrighted material for purposes “such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research” was not an infringement of copyright, and listed four “factors to be considered” in determining whether any other particular use was fair. H.R. 11947/S. 3008, 88th Cong., 2d Sess., § 6 (1964). Revised bills, drafted by the Copyright Office in 1965, contained a fair use provision merely mentioning the doctrine but not indicating its scope: “Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, the fair use of a copyrighted work is not an infringement of copyright.” H.R. 4347/S. 1006, 89th Cong., 1st Sess., § 107 (1965). The House Judiciary Committee restored the provision to its earlier wording, H.R. Rep. No. 2237, 89th Cong., 2d Sess., 5, 58 (1966), and the language adopted by the Committee remained in the bill in later Congresses. See H.R. 2512/S. 597, 90th Cong., 1st Sess., § 107 (1967); S. 543, 91st Cong., 1st Sess., § 107 (1969); S. 644, 92d Cong., 1st Sess., § 107 (1971); S. 1361, 93d Cong., 1st Sess., § 107 (1973); H. R. 2223/S. 22, 94th Cong., 1st Sess., § 107 (1975). With a few additions by the House Judiciary Committee in 1976, see 1976 House Report 5; H.R. Conf. Rep. No. 94-1733, p. 70 (1976), the same language appears in § 107 of the 1976 Act.
  16. In Williams & Wilkins Co. v. United States, 203 Ct. Cl. 74, 487 F.2d 1345 (1973), aff’d by an equally divided Court, 420 U.S. 376 (1975), decided during the process of the revision of the copyright statutes, the Court of Claims suggested that copying for personal use might be outside the scope of copyright protection under the 1909 Act. The court reasoned that because “hand copying” for personal use has always been regarded as permissible, and because the practice of making personal copies continued after typewriters and photostat machines were developed, the making of personal copies by means other than hand copying should be permissible as well. 203 Ct. Cl., at 84–88, 487 F.2d, at 1350–1352.

    There appear to me to be several flaws in this reasoning. First, it is by no means clear that the making of a “hand copy” of an entire work is permissible; the most that can be said is that there is no reported case on the subject, possibly because no copyright owner ever thought it worthwhile to sue. See Latman Fair Use Study 11–12; 3 M. Nimmer, Copyright § 13.05[E]4.[a] (1983). At least one early treatise asserted that infringement would result “if an individual made copies for his personal use, even in his own handwriting, as there is no rule of law excepting manuscript copies from the law of infringement.” A. Weil, American Copyright Law § 1066 (1917). Second, hand copying or even copying by typewriter is self-limiting. The drudgery involved in making hand copies ordinarily ensures that only necessary and fairly small portions of a work are taken; it is unlikely that any user would make a hand copy as a substitute for one that could be purchased. The harm to the copyright owner from hand copying thus is minimal. The recent advent of inexpensive and readily available copying machines, however, has changed the dimensions of the problem. See Register’s Second Supplementary Report, ch. III, p. 3; Hearings on H. R. 2223 before the Subcommittee on Courts, Civil Liberties, and the Administration of Justice of the House Committee on the Judiciary, 94th Cong., 1st Sess., 194 (1975) (1975 House Hearings) (remarks of Rep. Danielson); id., at 234 (statement of Robert W. Cairns); id., at 250 (remarks of Rep. Danielson); id., at 354 (testimony of Irwin Karp); id., at 467 (testimony of Rondo Cameron); id., at 1795 (testimony of Barbara Ringer, Register of Copyrights). Thus, “[t]he supposition that there is no tort involved in a scholar copying a copyrighted text by hand does not much advance the question of machine copying.” B. Kaplan, An Unhurried View of Copyright 101–102 (1967).

  17. In a trio of cases, Fortnightly Corp. v. United Artists Television, Inc., 392 U.S. 390, 398 (1968); Teleprompter Corp. v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 415 U.S. 394, 403–405 (1974); and Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, 422 U.S. 151 (1975), this Court had held that the reception of a radio or television broadcast was not a “performance” under the 1909 Act. The Court’s “narrow construction” of the word “perform” was “completely overturned by the [1976 Act] and its broad definition of ‘perform’ in section 101.” 1976 House Report 87.
  18. A work is performed “publicly” if it takes place “at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered.” § 101.
  19. One purpose of the exemption for private performances was to permit the home viewing of lawfully made videotapes. The Register noted in 1961 that “[n]ew technical devices will probably make it practical in the future to reproduce televised motion pictures in the home. We do not believe the private use of such a reproduction can or should be precluded by copyright.” Register’s 1961 Report 30 (emphasis added). The Register did not suggest that the private making of a reproduction of a televised motion picture would be permitted by the copyright law. The Register later reminded Congress that “[i]n general the concept of ‘performance’ must be distinguished sharply from the reproduction of copies.” Register’s Supplementary Report 22.
  20. During hearings on this provision, Representative Danielson inquired whether it would apply to works of fiction such as “Gone With the Wind,” or whether it was limited to “strictly technical types of information.” The uncontradicted response was that it would apply only in “general terms of science…[and] the useful arts.” 1975 House Hearings 251 (testimony of Robert W. Cairns); cf. id., at 300 (statement of Harry Rosenfield) (“We are not asking…for the right to copy ‘Gone With the Wind’”).
  21. The mention in the Senate and House Reports of situations in which copies for private use would be permissible under the fair use doctrine—for example, the making of a free copy for a blind person, 1975 Senate Report 66; 1976 House Report 73, or the “recordings of performances by music students for purposes of analysis and criticism,” 1975 Senate Report 63—would be superfluous as well. See n.12, supra.
  22. The following exchange took place during the testimony of Barbara Ringer, then Assistant Register of Copyrights:

    “[Rep.] Biester.…I can tell you I must have a small pirate in my own home. My son has a cassette tape recorder, and as a particular record becomes a hit, he will retrieve it onto his little set.…[T]his legislation, of course, would not point to his activities, would it?

    “Miss Ringer. I think the answer is clearly, ‘No, it would not.’ I have spoken at a couple of seminars on video cassettes lately, and this question is usually asked: ‘What about the home recorders?’ The answer I have given and will give again is that this is something you cannot control. You simply cannot control it. My own opinion, whether this is philosophical dogma or not, is that sooner or later there is going to be a crunch here. But that is not what this legislation is addressed to, and I do not see the crunch coming in the immediate future.…I do not see anybody going into anyone’s home and preventing this sort of thing, or forcing legislation that would engineer a piece of equipment not to allow home taping.” Hearings on S. 646 and H. R. 6927 before Subcommittee No. 3 of the House Committee on the Judiciary, 92d Cong., 1st Sess., 22–23 (1971) (1971 House Hearings).

  23. Shortly before passage of the bill, a colloquy took place between Representative Kastenmeier, Chairman of the House Subcommittee that produced the bill, and Representative Kazen, who was not on the Subcommittee:

    “Mr. KAZEN. Am I correct in assuming that the bill protects copyrighted material that is duplicated for commercial purposes only?

    “Mr. KASTENMEIER. Yes.

    “Mr. KAZEN. In other words, if your child were to record off of a program which comes through the air on the radio or television, and then used it for her own personal pleasure, for listening pleasure, this use would not be included under the penalties of this bill?

    “Mr. KASTENMEIER. This is not included in the bill. I am glad the gentleman raises the point.

    “On page 7 of the report, under ‘Home Recordings,’ Members will note that under the bill the same practice which prevails today is called for; namely, this is considered both presently and under the proposed law to be fair use. The child does not do this for commercial purposes. This is made clear in the report.” 117 Cong. Rec. 34748–34749 (1971).

  24. The 1909 Act’s grant of an exclusive right to “copy,” § 1(a), was of no assistance to the owner of a copyright in a sound recording, because a reproduction of a sound recording was technically considered not to be a “copy.” See 1971 House Hearings 18 (testimony of Barbara Ringer, Assistant Register of Copyrights); 1971 Amendment, § 1(e), 85 Stat. 391 (formerly codified as 17 U.S.C. § 26) (“For the purposes of [specified sections, not including § 1(a)], but not for any other purpose, a reproduction of a [sound recording] shall be considered to be a copy thereof”). This concept is carried forward into the 1976 Act, which distinguishes between “copies” and “phonorecords.” See n.7, supra.
  25. During consideration of the 1976 Act, Congress, of course, was well aware of the limited nature of the protection granted to sound recordings under the 1971 Amendment. See 1975 House Hearings 113 (testimony of Barbara Ringer, Register of Copyrights) (1971 Amendment “created a copyright in a sound recording…but limited it to the particular situation of so-called piracy”); id., at 1380 (letter from John Lorenz, Acting Librarian of Congress) (under 1971 Amendment “only the unauthorized reproduction and distribution to the public of copies of the sound recording is prohibited. Thus, the duplication of sound recordings for private, personal use and the performance of sound recordings through broadcasting or other means are outside the scope of the amendment”).
  26. Representative Kastenmeier, the principal House sponsor of the 1976 revision bill and Chairman of the House Subcommittee that produced it, made this explicit on the opening day of the House hearings:

    “[F]rom time to time, certain areas have not been covered in the bill. But is it not the case, this being a unified code, that the operation of the bill does apply whether or not we specifically deal with a subject or not?…

    “Therefore, we can really not fail to deal with an issue. It will be dealt with one way or the other. The code, title 17, will cover it. So we have made a conscientious decision even by omission.…


    “…By virtue of passing this bill, we will deal with every issue. Whether we deal with it completely or not for the purpose of resolving the issues involved is the only question, not whether it has dealt with the four corners of the bill because the four corners of the bill will presume to deal with everything in copyright.” Id., at 115.

  27. The precise phrase “fair use” apparently did not enter the case law until 1869, see Lawrence v. Dana, 15 F. Cas. 26, 60 (No. 8,136) (CC Mass.), but the doctrine itself found early expression in Folsom v. Marsh, 9 F. Cas. 342 (No. 4,901) (CC Mass. 1841). Justice Story was faced there with the “intricate and embarrassing questio[n]” whether a biography containing copyrighted letters was “a justifiable use of the original materials, such as the law recognizes as no infringement of the copyright of the plaintiffs.” Id., at 344, 348. In determining whether the use was permitted, it was necessary, said Justice Story, to consider “the nature and objects of the selections made, the quantity and value of the materials used, and the degree in which the use may prejudice the sale, or diminish the profits, or supersede the objects, of the original work.…Much must, in such cases, depend upon the nature of the new work, the value and extent of the copies, and the degree in which the original authors may be injured thereby.” Id., at 348–349.

    Similar lists were compiled by later courts. See, e.g., Tennessee Fabricating Co. v. Moultrie Mfg. Co., 421 F.2d 279, 283 (CA5), cert. denied, 398 U.S. 928 (1970); Mathews Conveyer Co. v. Palmer-Bee Co., 135 F.2d 73, 85 (CA6 1943); Columbia Pictures Corp. v. National Broadcasting Co., 137 F. Supp. 348 (SD Cal. 1955); Shapiro, Bernstein & Co. v. P.F. Collier & Son Co., 26 USPQ 40, 43 (SDNY 1934); Hill v. Whalen & Martell, Inc., 220 F. 359, 360 (SDNY 1914).

  28. “The world goes ahead because each of us builds on the work of our predecessors. ‘A dwarf standing on the shoulders of a giant can see farther than the giant himself.’” Chafee, Reflections on the Law of Copyright: I, 45 Colum. L. Rev. 503, 511 (1945).
  29. Quoting from the Register’s 1961 Report, the Senate and House Reports give examples of possible fair uses:

    “‘quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author’s observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.’” 1975 Senate Report 61–62; 1976 House Report 65.

  30. See, e.g., Triangle Publications, Inc. v. Knight-Ridder Newspapers, Inc., 626 F.2d 1171 (CA5 1980) (comparative advertising).
  31. Professor Seltzer has characterized these lists of uses as “reflect[ing] what in fact the subject matter of fair use has in the history of its adjudication consisted in: it has always had to do with the use by a second author of a first author’s work.” L. Seltzer, Exemptions and Fair Use in Copyright 24 (1978) (emphasis removed). He distinguishes “the mere reproduction of a work in order to use it for its intrinsic purpose—to make what might be called the ‘ordinary’ use of it.” When copies are made for “ordinary” use of the work, “ordinary infringement has customarily been triggered, not notions of fair use” (emphasis in original). Ibid. See also 3 M. Nimmer, Copyright 13.05[A]1. (1983) (“Use of a work in each of the foregoing contexts either necessarily or usually involves its use in a derivative work”).
  32. Williams & Wilkins Co. v. United States, 203 Ct. Cl. 74, 487 F.2d 1345 (1973), aff’d by an equally divided Court, 420 U.S. 376 (1975), involved the photocopying of scientific journal articles; the Court of Claims stressed that the libraries performing the copying were “devoted solely to the advancement and dissemination of medical knowledge,” 203 Ct. Cl., at 91, 487 F.2d, at 1354, and that “medical science would be seriously hurt if such library photocopying were stopped.” Id., at 95, 487 F.2d, at 1356.

    The issue of library copying is now covered by § 108 of the 1976 Act. That section, which Congress regarded as “authoriz[ing] certain photocopying practices which may not qualify as a fair use,” 1975 Senate Report 67; 1976 House Report 74, permits the making of copies only for “private study, scholarship, or research.” § 108(d)(1) and (e)(1).

  33. In the words of Lord Mansfield: “[W]e must take care to guard against two extremes equally prejudicial; the one, that men of ability, who have employed their time for the service of the community, may not be deprived of their just merits, and the reward of their ingenuity and labour; the other, that the world may not be deprived of improvements, nor the progress of the arts be retarded.” Sayre v. Moore, as set forth in Cary v. Longman, 1 East 358, 361, n. (b), 102 Eng. Rep. 138, 140, n. (b) (K.B. 1785). See Register’s Supplementary Report 13.
  34. This point was brought home repeatedly by the Register of Copyrights. Mentioning the “multitude of technological developments” since passage of the 1909 Act, including “remarkable developments in the use of video tape,” Register’s Supplementary Report xiv–xv, the Register cautioned:

    “I realize, more clearly now than I did in 1961, that the revolution in communications has brought with it a serious challenge to the author’s copyright. This challenge comes not only from the ever-growing commercial interests who wish to use the author’s works for private gain. An equally serious attack has come from people with a sincere interest in the public welfare who fully recognize…‘that the real heart of civilization…owes its existence to the author’; ironically, in seeking to make the author’s works widely available by freeing them from copyright restrictions, they fail to realize that they are whittling away the very thing that nurtures authorship in the first place. An accommodation among conflicting demands must be worked out, true enough, but not by denying the fundamental constitutional directive: to encourage cultural progress by securing the author’s exclusive rights to him for a limited time.” Id., at xv; see 1975 House Hearings 117 (testimony of Barbara Ringer, Register of Copyrights).

  35. A VTR owner who has taped a favorite movie for repeated viewing will be less likely to rent or buy a tape containing the same movie, watch a televised rerun, or pay to see the movie at a theater. Although time-shifting may not replace theater or rerun viewing or the purchase of prerecorded tapes or discs, it may well replace rental usage; a VTR user who has recorded a first-run movie for later viewing will have no need to rent a copy when he wants to see it. Both library-builders and time-shifters may avoid commercials; the library-builder may use the pause control to record without them, and all users may fast-forward through commercials on playback.

    The Studios introduced expert testimony that both time-shifting and librarying would tend to decrease their revenue from copyrighted works. See 480 F. Supp., at 440. The District Court’s findings also show substantial library-building and avoidance of commercials. Both sides submitted surveys showing that the average Betamax user owns between 25 and 32 tapes. The Studios’ survey showed that at least 40% of users had more than 10 tapes in a “library”; Sony’s survey showed that more than 40% of users planned to view their tapes more than once; and both sides’ surveys showed that commercials were avoided at least 25% of the time. Id., at 438–439.

  36. Concern over the impact of a use upon “potential” markets is to be found in cases decided both before and after § 107 lent Congress’ imprimatur to the judicially created doctrine of fair use. See, e.g., Iowa State University Research Foundation, Inc. v. American Broadcasting Cos., 621 F.2d 57, 60 (CA2 1980) (“the effect of the use on the copyright holder’s potential market for the work”); Meeropol v. Nizer, 560 F.2d 1061, 1070 (CA2 1977) (“A key issue in fair use cases is whether the defendant’s work tends to diminish or prejudice the potential sale of plaintiff’s work”), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 1013 (1978); Williams & Wilkins Co. v. United States, 203 Ct. Cl., at 88, 487 F.2d, at 1352 (“the effect of the use on a copyright owner’s potential market for and value of his work”); Encyclopaedia Britannica Educational Corp. v. Crooks, 542 F. Supp. 1156, 1173 (WDNY 1982) (“[T]he concern here must be focused on a copyrighted work’s potential market. It is perfectly possible that plaintiffs’ profits would have been greater, but for the kind of videotaping in question”) (emphasis in original).
  37. This intent is manifested further by provisions of the 1976 Act that exempt from liability persons who, while not participating directly in any infringing activity, could otherwise be charged with contributory infringement. See § 108(f)(1) (library not liable “for the unsupervised use of reproducing equipment located on its premises,” provided that certain warnings are posted); § 110(6) (“governmental body” or “nonprofit agricultural or horticultural organization” not liable for infringing performance by concessionaire “in the course of an annual agricultural or horticultural fair or exhibition”).
  38. In Screen Gems, on which the Gershwin court relied, the court held that liability could be imposed on a shipper of unauthorized “bootleg” records and a radio station that broadcast advertisements of the records, provided they knew or should have known that the records were infringing. The court concluded that the records’ low price and the manner in which the records were marketed could support a finding of “constructive knowledge” even if actual knowledge were not shown.
  39. See, e.g., Famous Music Corp. v. Bay State Harness Horse Racing & Breeding Assn., Inc., 554 F.2d 1213 (CA1 1977); Dreamland Ball Room, Inc. v. Shapiro, Bernstein & Co., 36 F.2d 354 (CA7 1929); M. Witmark & Sons v. Tremont Social & Athletic Club, 188 F. Supp. 787, 790 (Mass. 1960); see also Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, 422 U.S. 151, 157 (1975); Buck v. Jewell-LaSalle Realty Co., 283 U.S. 191, 198–199 (1931); 3 M. Nimmer, Copyright 12.04[A], p. 12-35 (1983).

    Courts have premised liability in these cases on the notion that the defendant had the ability to supervise or control the infringing activities, see, e.g., Shapiro, Bernstein & Co. v. H. L. Green Co., 316 F.2d 304, 307 (CA2 1963); KECA Music, Inc. v. Dingus McGee’s Co., 432 F. Supp. 72, 74 (WD Mo. 1977). This notion, however, is to some extent fictional; the defendant cannot escape liability by instructing the performers not to play copyrighted music, or even by inserting a provision to that effect into the performers’ contract. Famous Music Corp. v. Bay State Harness Horse Racing & Breeding Assn., Inc., 554 F.2d, at 1214–1215; KECA Music, Inc. v. Dingus McGee’s Co., 432 F. Supp., at 75; Shapiro, Bernstein & Co. v. Veltin, 47 F. Supp. 648, 649 (WD La. 1942). Congress expressly rejected a proposal to exempt proprietors from this type of liability under the 1976 Act. See 1975 Senate Report 141–142; 1976 House Report 159–160; 1975 House Hearings 1812–1813 (testimony of Barbara Ringer, Register of Copyrights); id., at 1813 (colloquy between Rep. Pattison and Barbara Ringer).

    The Court’s attempt to distinguish these cases on the ground of “control,” ante, at 437, is obviously unpersuasive. The direct infringer ordinarily is not employed by the person held liable; instead, he is an independent contractor. Neither is he always an agent of the person held liable; Screen Gems makes this apparent.

  40. My conclusion respecting contributory infringement does not include the retailer defendants. The District Court found that one of the retailer defendants had assisted in the advertising campaign for the Betamax, but made no other findings respecting their knowledge of the Betamax’s intended uses. I do not agree with the Court of Appeals, at least on this record, that the retailers “are sufficiently engaged in the enterprise to be held accountable,” 659 F.2d 963, 976 (1981). In contrast, the advertising agency employed to promote the Betamax was far more actively engaged in the advertising campaign, and petitioners have not argued that the agency’s liability differs in any way from that of Sony Corporation and Sony Corporation of America.
  41. The “staple article of commerce” doctrine protects those who manufacture products incorporated into or used with patented inventions—for example, the paper and ink used with patented printing machines, Henry v. A. B. Dick Co., 224 U.S. 1 (1912), or the dry ice used with patented refrigeration systems, Carbice Corp. v. American Patents Corp., 283 U.S. 27 (1931). Because a patent holder has the right to control the use of the patented item as well as its manufacture, see Motion Picture Patents Co. v. Universal Film Mfg. Co., 243 U.S. 502, 509–510 (1917); 35 U.S.C. 271(a), such protection for the manufacturer of the incorporated product is necessary to prevent patent holders from extending their monopolies by suppressing competition in unpatented components and supplies suitable for use with the patented item. See Dawson Chemical Co. v. Rohm & Haas Co., 448 U.S. 176, 197–198 (1980). The doctrine of contributory patent infringement has been the subject of attention by the courts and by Congress, see id., at 202–212, and has been codified since 1952, 66 Stat. 792, but was never mentioned during the copyright law revision process as having any relevance to contributory copyright infringement.
  42. Although VTR’s also may be used to watch prerecorded video cassettes and to make home motion pictures, these uses do not require a tuner such as the Betamax contains. See n.1, supra. The Studios do not object to Sony’s sale of VTR’s without tuners. Brief for Respondents 5, n.9. In considering the noninfringing uses of the Betamax, therefore, those uses that would remain possible without the Betamax’s built-in tuner should not be taken into account.
  43. Noninfringing uses would include, for example, recording works that are not protected by copyright, recording works that have entered the public domain, recording with permission of the copyright owner, and, of course, any recording that qualifies as fair use. See, e.g., Bruzzone v. Miller Brewing Co., 202 USPQ 809 (ND Cal. 1979) (use of home VTR for market research studies).
  44. Sony asserts that much or most television broadcasting is available for home recording because (1) no copyright owner other than the Studios has brought an infringement action, and (2) much televised material is ineligible for copyright protection because videotapes of the broadcasts are not kept. The first of these assertions is irrelevant; Sony’s liability does not turn on the fact that only two copyright owners thus far have brought suit. The amount of infringing use must be determined through consideration of the television market as a whole. Sony’s second assertion is based on a faulty premise; the Copyright Office permits audiovisual works transmitted by television to be registered by deposit of sample frames plus a description of the work. See 37 CFR §§ 202.20(c)(2)(ii) and 202.21(g) (1983). Moreover, although an infringement action cannot be brought unless the work is registered, 17 U.S.C. § 411(a) (1982 ed.), registration is not a condition of copyright protection. § 408(a). Copying an unregistered work still may be infringement. Cf. § 506(a) (liability for criminal copyright infringement; not conditioned on prior registration).
  45. Even if concern with remedy were appropriate at the liability stage, the Court’s use of the District Court’s findings is somewhat cavalier. The Court relies heavily on testimony by representatives of professional sports leagues to the effect that they have no objection to VTR recording. The Court never states, however, whether the sports leagues are copyright holders, and if so, whether they have exclusive copyrights to sports broadcasts. It is therefore unclear whether the sports leagues have authority to consent to copying the broadcasts of their events.

    Assuming that the various sports leagues do have exclusive copyrights in some of their broadcasts, the amount of authorized time-shifting still would not be overwhelming. Sony’s own survey indicated that only 7.3% of all Betamax use is to record sports events of all kinds. Tr. 2353, Defendants’ Exh. OT, Table 20. Because Sony’s witnesses did not represent all forms of sports events, moreover, this figure provides only a tenuous basis for this Court to engage in factfinding of its own.

    The only witness at trial who was clearly an exclusive copyright owner and who expressed no objection to unauthorized time-shifting was the owner of the copyright in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. But the Court cites no evidence in the record to the effect that anyone makes VTR copies of that program. The simple fact is that the District Court made no findings on the amount of authorized time-shifting that takes place. The Court seems to recognize this gap in its reasoning, and phrases its argument as a hypothetical. The Court states: “If there are millions of owners of VTR’s who make copies of televised sports events, religious broadcasts, and educational programs such as Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and if the proprietors of those programs welcome the practice,” the sale of VTR’s “should not be stifled” in order to protect respondents’ copyrights. Ante, at 446 (emphasis supplied). Given that the Court seems to recognize that its argument depends on findings that have not been made, it seems that a remand is inescapable.

  46. As has been explained, some uses of time-shifting, such as copying an old newspaper clipping for a friend, are fair use because of their de minimis effect on the copyright holder. The scale of copying involved in this case, of course, is of an entirely different magnitude, precluding application of such an exception.
  47. Home Recording of Copyrighted Works: Hearing before the Sub-committee on Courts, Civil Liberties, and the Administration of Justice of the House Committee on the Judiciary, 97th Cong., 2d Sess., pt. 2, p. 1250 (1982) (memorandum of Prof. Laurence H. Tribe).
  48. See A Survey of Betamax Owners, Tr. 2353, Defendants’ Exh. OT, Table 20, cited in Brief for Respondents 52.
  49. The Court’s one oblique acknowledgment of this third factor, ante, at 447, and n.30, seems to suggest that the fact that time-shifting involves copying complete works is not very significant because the viewers already have been asked to watch the initial broadcast free. This suggestion misses the point. As has been noted, a book borrowed from a public library may not be copied any more freely than one that has been purchased. An invitation to view a showing is completely different from an invitation to copy a copyrighted work.
  50. The Court implicitly has recognized that this market is very significant. The central concern underlying the Court’s entire opinion is that there is a large audience who would like very much to be able to view programs at times other than when they are broadcast. Ante, at 446. The Court simply misses the implication of its own concerns.
  51. Other nations have imposed royalties on the manufacturers of products used to infringe copyright. See, e.g., Copyright Laws and Treaties of the World (UNESCO/BNA 1982) (English translation), reprinting Federal Act on Copyright in Works of Literature and Art and on Related Rights (Austria), §§ 42(5)–(7), and An Act dealing with Copyright and Related Rights (Federal Republic of Germany), Art. 53(5). A study produced for the Commission of European Communities has recommended that these requirements “serve as a pattern” for the European community. A. Dietz, Copyright Law in the European Community 135 (1978). While these royalty systems ordinarily depend on the existence of authors’ collecting societies, see id., at 119, 136, such collecting societies are a familiar part of our copyright law. See generally Broadcast Music, Inc. v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 441 U.S. 1, 4–5 (1979). Fashioning relief of this sort, of course, might require bringing other copyright owners into court through certification of a class or otherwise.