Mr. Rogers' legal legacy

[JURIST] Children's TV icon Fred Rogers [profile] died Thursday here in Pittsburgh at the age of 74. More details on MisterRogers.org and in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Many lawyers and law students recall Mr. Rogers from their youth, but only a few may remember the significant legal role he played nineteen years ago in persuading the US Supreme Court to protect new home videotaping technology from a copyright infringement lawsuit launched against Sony, its progenitor, by various film studios and production companies.

Delivering the Court majority Opinion [text] in Sony v. University City Studios 464 U.S. 417 (1984), Justice Stevens wrote: "Fred Rogers [is] president of the corporation that produces and owns the copyright on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. The program is carried by more public television stations than any other program. Its audience numbers over 3,000,000 families a day. He testified [at trial] that he had absolutely no objection to home taping for noncommercial use and expressed the opinion that it is a real service to families to be able to record children's programs and to show them at appropriate times. If there are millions of owners of VTR's [video tape recorders] 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 business of supplying the equipment that makes such copying feasible should not be stifled simply because the equipment is used by some individuals to make unauthorized reproductions of respondents' works."

We rest his case.



 

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