Digital Copyright and the Consumer Revolution

Digital Copyright and the Consumer Revolution

Hands off my iPod

Matthew Rimmer

With a focus on recent US copyright law, the book charts the consumer rebellion against the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act 1998 (US) and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act 1998 (US). The author explores the significance of key judicial rulings and considers legal controversies over new technologies, such as the iPod, TiVo, Sony Playstation II, Google Book Search, and peer-to-peer networks. The book also highlights cultural developments, such as the emergence of digital sampling and mash-ups, the construction of the BBC Creative Archive, and the evolution of the Creative Commons.

Introduction

Matthew Rimmer

Subjects: law - academic, intellectual property law

Extract

The songs on our iPods, the television shows we capture on TiVo, the music videos in our new portable video players, the movies we watch in our DVD collections – we believe that these digital slices of media also belong to us in a real sense. (J.D. Lasica, Darknet1) In the landmark Sony Betamax case in 1984, the Supreme Court of the United States held that consumers’ home copying of television programmes on video cassette recorders (VCR) was a fair use of copyright works.2 Accordingly, the Bench ruled that the manufacturer of a VCR was not liable for the secondary copyright infringement, because the technology was capable of substantial non-infringing uses. The judgment has been hailed as ‘the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence rolled into one’ for consumers and technology innovators.3 The ruling has been lauded by consumers as a boon not only for ‘the makers of not just VCRs, but also every other technology capable of being used for infringement (e.g., photocopiers, personal computers, Cisco routers, CD burners, and Apple’s iPod)’.4 At the same time, the decision has been derided as an unwarranted incursion into the economic rights of copyright industries. Jack Valenti of the Motion Picture Association of America famously compared the VCR to ‘the Boston strangler’.5 Others wondered whether the significance of the decision had eroded over time, especially in light of digital technologies.6 In 2005, the Supreme Court of the United States had an opportunity to revisit the Sony Betamax decision, and consider...