On November 11, 1976, Universal Studios and Disney sued the Sony Corporation for a device that allowed people to record television shows for later viewing. They argued that the devices had the potential to infringe copyright, so the manufacturer should be held liable. More than seven years later, the Supreme Court issued a 5 to 4 decision, holding that the sale of these devices does not constitute contributory infringement. Sony v. Universal Studios, 464 U.S. 417 (1984). To learn about the backstory and context to one of the most well-known copyright cases, read an essay about it in Intellectual Property Stories.
Professor Christopher Cotropia uses this book in his Intellectual Property Law and Policy course. As Professor Cotropia notes:
“The stories here provide you details about the litigants and the industry and the climate, both legal and social, around each case. Armed with these additional facts, I believe you can enrich the class discussion regarding a seminal case by having answers to the big ‘why?’ and ‘who cares?’ — questions that may be spoken (or unspoken) in class.”
Browse all Law Stories titles here, and click on a title for access.
First-year law students can learn about the back story to more than a dozen famous civil procedure cases, including an essay by Dean Wendy Perdue on Shaffer v. Heitner. In the area of contracts, you can learn about cases such as Raffles v. Wichelhaus or Hamer v. Sidway. There are ten cases in Torts Stories, including essays on U.S. v. Carroll Towing as well as Rylands v. Fletcher.
If you’re interested in the story behind some of the famous cases and concepts in law school, check out the Law Stories series.
In her essay on the Sony case, Jessica Litman describes an interesting admission by the defendant hand-picked by the entertainment industry. One argument was that consumers would record movies to create home libraries, which is a feature described in some Sony advertising. As Professor Litman writes, this defendant testified that the cost of blank tapes was so high that it made more sense to watch taped programs and then record over them.