Digital Copyright and the Consumer Revolution
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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.
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Chapter 2: Remote Control: Time-shifting and Space-shifting

Matthew Rimmer


The creation and near-universal adoption of the remote control arguably marks the beginning of the era of the personalization of technology. The remote control shifted power to the individual, and the technologies that have embraced this principle in its wake – the Walkman, the Video Cassette Recorder, Digital Video Recorders such as TiVo, and portable music devices like the iPod – have created a world where the individual’s control over the content, style, and timing of what he consumes is nearly absolute. (Christine Rosen ‘The Age of Egocasting’1) In 2005, there were commemorations of the 21st anniversary of the Supreme Court of the United States decision in Sony v. Universal City Studios Inc (the Sony Betamax case). In 1984, the Supreme Court ruled that, when consumers used the Sony Betamax VCR to make their own personal copies of copyrighted television programmes for single-use ‘timeshifting’ purposes, they were making a ‘fair use’ of the copyrighted work. Sony’s distribution of the recorder was therefore legal because the Betamax was capable of substantial, non-infringing uses.2 Notably, Gary Shapiro, the Chairman of the Home Recording Rights Coalition, paid an effusive tribute to the decision: The significance of the Supreme Court’s decision, twenty years ago, cannot be overstated. For consumer electronics and consumer freedom, it is the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence rolled into one. But increasingly, major entertainment interests are arguing that the Betamax doctrine does not apply in the digital age. Without this doctrine’s protection, the big motion picture studios and...

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