Tag Archives: Sony v. Universal City Studios

Roamio, Wherefore Art Thou Aereo: TiVo Picks Up The Pieces Of A Once Promising Tech Disrupter

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By: Brian J. Meli

Aereo, the company responsible for putting the fear of God in the big four television networks, and for giving every IP attorney from New York to L.A. reason to re-read the Copyright Act’s Transmit Clause, is back in the news.

In case you missed last year’s Supreme Court decision, Aereo’s over-the-air streaming television service was ruled to be in violation of the Copyright Act, essentially starting the countdown on the company’s remaining time as a going concern. However, at the time of that verdict, the technology behind Aereo appeared to have legitimate value, and many predicted that an opportunistic buyer would eventually capitalize on that value. Now, it seems, that time has come.

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The World Wide What-If: How E.T. And Mickey Mouse Nearly Changed The Internet (And World) As We Know It – Part 2

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By: Brian J. Meli

This is Part 2 of a two-part article appearing in the May/June edition of IP Litigator. You can read Part 1 here.

In a temporary departure from our usual Legalmatter format, last week’s post contemplated a purely fictional hypo.

Lawyers love hypotheticals, in part because they make fertile ground for debate (and in part because it’s much easier to win an argument when it’s bring-your-own-facts). I deemed this particular hypothetical worthy of some ink however because it raises some thought-provoking questions about how IP laws have shaped our society.

The hypo involved going back in time and changing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in one of the most historic IP cases of all time, Sony v. Universal City Studios, so that plaintiffs Universal Studios and the Walt Disney Company came out on top. Such an outcome would have made Sony’s fledgling Betamax videocassette recorder (and the VCR in general) illegal due to its ability to allow users to impermissibly infringe copyrighted broadcasts. This would have had a profound affect on the evolution of consumer technology and the Internet, and fundamentally changed the ways we live, work and play today.

Last week we contemplated the online world of a parallel universe in which just such a thing happened. This week we conclude by taking a look at the equivalent off-line world.

Here’s how it might look:

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The World Wide What-If: How E.T. And Mickey Mouse Nearly Changed The Internet (And World) As We Know It – Part 1

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By: Brian J. Meli

This is Part 1 of a two-part article appearing in the May/June 2012 edition of IP Litigator. You can read Part 2 here.

The Universal Studios logo is a computer-generated rendering of a rotating planet Earth, partially circumscribed by the company’s name in giant block letters. It’s an iconic image that instantly invokes the might and magic of Hollywood. It’s also unintentionally allegorical, because had things turned out a little differently for Universal 30 years ago, today’s world—particularly the parts that relate to commerce and technology—might be very different.

The date was January 17, 1984—a year many associate with Apple Computer’s famous “1984” Macintosh commercial, and the George Orwell book that inspired it. But a lesser-known, and even more significant event in the history of the human race’s relationship with technology occurred that same year, and it had nothing to do with Apple. That event was the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Sony v. Universal City Studios, better known in legal circles as the “Sony Betamax” case.

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