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decided: January 17, 1984.



Stevens, J., delivered the opinion of the Court in which Burger, C. J., and Brennan, White, and O'connor, JJ., joined. Blackmun, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which Marshall, Powell, and Rehnquist, JJ., joined, post, p. 457.

Author: Stevens

[ 464 U.S. Page 419]

 JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioners manufacture and sell home video tape recorders. Respondents own the copyrights on some of the television

[ 464 U.S. Page 420]

     programs that are broadcast on the public airwaves. Some members of the general public use video tape recorders sold by petitioners to record some of these broadcasts, as well as a large number of other broadcasts. The question presented is whether the sale of petitioners' copying equipment to the general public violates any of the rights conferred upon respondents by the Copyright Act.

Respondents commenced this copyright infringement action against petitioners in the United States District Court for the Central District of California in 1976. Respondents alleged that some individuals had used Betamax video tape recorders (VTR's) to record some of respondents' copyrighted works which had been exhibited on commercially sponsored television and contended that these individuals had thereby infringed respondents' copyrights. Respondents further maintained that petitioners were liable for the copyright infringement allegedly committed by Betamax consumers because of petitioners' marketing of the Betamax VTR's.*fn1 Respondents sought no relief against any Betamax consumer. Instead, they sought money damages and an equitable accounting of profits from petitioners, as well as an injunction against the manufacture and marketing of Betamax VTR's.

After a lengthy trial, the District Court denied respondents all the relief they sought and entered judgment for petitioners. 480 F.Supp. 429 (1979). The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the District Court's judgment on respondents' copyright claim, holding petitioners liable for contributory infringement and ordering the District Court to fashion appropriate relief. 659 F.2d 963 (1981).

[ 464 U.S. Page 421]

     We granted certiorari, 457 U.S. 1116 (1982); since we had not completed our study of the case last Term, we ordered reargument, 463 U.S. 1226 (1983). We now reverse.

An explanation of our rejection of respondents' unprecedented attempt to impose copyright liability upon the distributors of copying equipment requires a quite detailed recitation of the findings of the District Court. In summary, those findings reveal that the average member of the public uses a VTR principally to record a program he cannot view as it is being televised and then to watch it once at a later time. This practice, known as "time-shifting," enlarges the television viewing audience. For that reason, a significant amount of television programming may be used in this manner without objection from the owners of the copyrights on the programs. For the same reason, even the two respondents in this case, who do assert objections to time-shifting in this litigation, were unable to prove that the practice has impaired the commercial value of their copyrights or has created any likelihood of future harm. Given these findings, there is no basis in the Copyright Act upon which respondents can hold petitioners liable for distributing VTR's to the general public. The Court of Appeals' holding that respondents are entitled to enjoin the distribution of VTR's, to collect royalties on the sale of such equipment, or to obtain other relief, if affirmed, would enlarge the scope of respondents' statutory monopolies to encompass control over an article of commerce that is not the subject of copyright protection. Such an expansion of the copyright privilege is beyond the limits of the grants authorized by Congress.


The two respondents in this action, Universal City Studios, Inc., and Walt Disney Productions, produce and hold the copyrights on a substantial number of motion pictures and other audiovisual works. In the current marketplace, they can exploit their rights in these works in a number of ways:

[ 464 U.S. Page 422]

     by authorizing theatrical exhibitions, by licensing limited showings on cable and network television, by selling syndication rights for repeated airings on local television stations, and by marketing programs on prerecorded videotapes or videodiscs. Some works are suitable for exploitation through all of these avenues, while the market for other works is more limited.

Petitioner Sony manufactures millions of Betamax video tape recorders and markets these devices through numerous retail establishments, some of which are also petitioners in this action.*fn2 Sony's Betamax VTR is a mechanism consisting of three basic components: (1) a tuner, which receives electromagnetic signals transmitted over the television band of the public airwaves and separates them into audio and visual signals; (2) a recorder, which records such signals on a magnetic tape; and (3) an adapter, which converts the audio and visual signals on the tape into a composite signal that can be received by a television set.

Several capabilities of the machine are noteworthy. The separate tuner in the Betamax enables it to record a broadcast off one station while the television set is tuned to another channel, permitting the viewer, for example, to watch two simultaneous news broadcasts by watching one "live" and recording the other for later viewing. Tapes may be reused, and programs that have been recorded may be erased either before or after viewing. A timer in the Betamax can be used to activate and deactivate the equipment at predetermined

[ 464 U.S. Page 423]

     times, enabling an intended viewer to record programs that are transmitted when he or she is not at home. Thus a person may watch a program at home in the evening even though it was broadcast while the viewer was at work during the afternoon. The Betamax is also equipped with a pause button and a fast-forward control. The pause button, when depressed, deactivates the recorder until it is released, thus enabling a viewer to omit a commercial advertisement from the recording, provided, of course, that the viewer is present when the program is recorded. The fast-forward control enables the viewer of a previously recorded program to run the tape rapidly when a segment he or she does not desire to see is being played back on the television screen.

The respondents and Sony both conducted surveys of the way the Betamax machine was used by several hundred owners during a sample period in 1978. Although there were some differences in the surveys, they both showed that the primary use of the machine for most owners was "time-shifting" -- the practice of recording a program to view it once at a later time, and thereafter erasing it. Time-shifting enables viewers to see programs they otherwise would miss because they are not at home, are occupied with other tasks, or are viewing a program on another station at the time of a broadcast that they desire to watch. Both surveys also showed, however, that a substantial number of interviewees had accumulated libraries of tapes.*fn3 Sony's survey indicated

[ 464 U.S. Page 424]

     that over 80% of the interviewees watched at least as much regular television as they had before owning a Betamax.*fn4 Respondents offered no evidence of decreased television viewing by Betamax owners.*fn5

Sony introduced considerable evidence describing television programs that could be copied without objection from any copyright holder, with special emphasis on sports, religious, and educational programming. For example, their survey indicated that 7.3% of all Betamax use is to record sports events, and representatives of professional baseball, football, basketball, and hockey testified that they had no objection to the recording of their televised events for home use.*fn6

[ 464 U.S. Page 425]

     Respondents offered opinion evidence concerning the future impact of the unrestricted sale of VTR's on the commercial value of their copyrights. The District Court found, however, that they had failed to prove any likelihood of future harm from the use of VTR's for time-shifting. 480 F.Supp., at 469.

The District Court's Decision

The lengthy trial of the case in the District Court concerned the private, home use of VTR's for recording programs broadcast on the public airwaves without charge to the viewer.*fn7 No issue concerning the transfer of tapes to other persons, the use of home-recorded tapes for public performances, or the copying of programs transmitted on pay or cable television systems was raised. See id., at 432-433, 442.

The District Court concluded that noncommercial home use recording of material broadcast over the public airwaves was a fair use of copyrighted works and did not constitute copyright infringement. It emphasized the fact that the material was broadcast free to the public at large, the noncommercial character of the use, and the private character of the activity conducted entirely within the home. Moreover, the court found that the purpose of this use served the public interest in increasing access to television programming, an interest that "is consistent with the First Amendment policy of providing the fullest possible access to information through the public airwaves. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. v. Democratic National Committee, 412 U.S. 94, 102." Id., at 454.*fn8 Even when an entire copyrighted work was recorded,

[ 464 U.S. Page 426]

     the District Court regarded the copying as fair use "because there is no accompanying reduction in the market for 'plaintiff's original work.'" Ibid.

As an independent ground of decision, the District Court also concluded that Sony could not be held liable as a contributory infringer even if the home use of a VTR was considered an infringing use. The District Court noted that Sony had no direct involvement with any Betamax purchasers who recorded copyrighted works off the air. Sony's advertising was silent on the subject of possible copyright infringement, but its instruction booklet contained the following statement:

"Television programs, films, videotapes and other materials may be copyrighted. Unauthorized recording of such material may be contrary to the provisions of the United States copyright laws." Id., at 436.

The District Court assumed that Sony had constructive knowledge of the probability that the Betamax machine would be used to record copyrighted programs, but found that Sony merely sold a "product capable of a variety of uses, some of them allegedly infringing." Id., at 461. It reasoned:

"Selling a staple article of commerce -- e. g., a typewriter, a recorder, a camera, a photocopying machine -- technically contributes to any infringing use subsequently made thereof, but this kind of 'contribution,' if deemed sufficient as a basis for liability, would expand the theory beyond precedent and arguably beyond judicial management.

". . . Commerce would indeed be hampered if manufacturers of staple items were held liable as contributory infringers whenever they 'constructively' knew that some purchasers on some occasions would use their product

[ 464 U.S. Page 427]

     for a purpose which a court later deemed, as a matter of first impression, to be an infringement." Ibid.

Finally, the District Court discussed the respondents' prayer for injunctive relief, noting that they had asked for an injunction either preventing the future sale of Betamax machines, or requiring that the machines be rendered incapable of recording copyrighted works off the air. The court stated that it had "found no case in which the manufacturers, distributors, retailers and advertisers of the instrument enabling the infringement were sued by the copyright holders," and that the request for relief in this case "is unique." Id., at 465.

It concluded that an injunction was wholly inappropriate because any possible harm to respondents was outweighed by the fact that "the Betamax could still legally be used to record noncopyrighted material or material whose owners consented to the copying. An injunction would deprive the public of the ability to use the Betamax for this noninfringing off-the-air recording." Id., at 468.

The Court of Appeals' Decision

The Court of Appeals reversed the District Court's judgment on respondents' copyright claim. It did not set aside any of the District Court's findings of fact. Rather, it concluded as a matter of law that the home use of a VTR was not a fair use because it was not a "productive use."*fn9 It therefore held that it was unnecessary for plaintiffs to prove any harm to the potential market for the copyrighted works, but then observed that it seemed clear that the cumulative effect of mass reproduction made possible by VTR's would tend to diminish the potential market for respondents' works. 659 F.2d, at 974.

[ 464 U.S. Page 428]

     On the issue of contributory infringement, the Court of Appeals first rejected the analogy to staple articles of commerce such as tape recorders or photocopying machines. It noted that such machines "may have substantial benefit for some purposes" and do not "even remotely raise copyright problems." Id., at 975. VTR's, however, are sold "for the primary purpose of reproducing television programming" and "[virtually] all" such programming is copyrighted material. Ibid. The Court of Appeals concluded, therefore, that VTR's were not suitable for any substantial noninfringing use even if some copyright owners elect not to enforce their rights.

The Court of Appeals also rejected the District Court's reliance on Sony's lack of knowledge that home use constituted infringement. Assuming that the statutory provisions defining the remedies for infringement applied also to the non-statutory tort of contributory infringement, the court stated that a defendant's good faith would merely reduce his damages liability but would not excuse the infringing conduct. It held that Sony was chargeable with knowledge of the homeowner's infringing activity because the reproduction of copyrighted materials was either "the most conspicuous use" or "the major use" of the Betamax product. Ibid.

On the matter of relief, the Court of Appeals concluded that "statutory damages may be appropriate" and that the District Court should reconsider its determination that an injunction would not be an appropriate remedy; and, referring to "the analogous photocopying area," suggested that a continuing royalty pursuant to a judicially created compulsory license may very well be an acceptable resolution of the relief issue. Id., at 976.


Article I, § 8, of the Constitution provides:

"The Congress shall have Power . . . To Promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

[ 464 U.S. Page 429]

     The monopoly privileges that Congress may authorize are neither unlimited nor primarily designed to provide a special private benefit. Rather, the limited grant is a means by which an important public purpose may be achieved. It is intended to motivate the creative activity of authors and inventors by the provision of a special reward, and to allow the public access to the products of their genius after the limited period of exclusive control has expired.

"The copyright law, like the patent statutes, makes reward to the owner a secondary consideration. In Fox Film Corp. v. Doyal, 286 U.S. 123, 127, Chief Justice Hughes spoke as follows respecting the copyright monopoly granted by Congress, 'The sole interest of the United States and the primary object in conferring the monopoly lie in the general benefits derived by the public from the labors of authors.' It is said that reward to the author or artist serves to induce release to the public of the products of his creative genius." United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc., 334 U.S. 131, 158 (1948).

As the text of the Constitution makes plain, it is Congress that has been assigned the task of defining the scope of the limited monopoly that should be granted to authors or to inventors in order to give the public appropriate access to their work product. Because this task involves a difficult balance between the interests of authors and inventors in the control and exploitation of their writings and discoveries on the one hand, and society's competing interest in the free flow of ideas, information, and commerce on the other hand, our patent and copyright statutes have been amended repeatedly.*fn10

[ 464 U.S. Page 430]

     From its beginning, the law of copyright has developed in response to significant changes in technology.*fn11 Indeed, it was the invention of a new form of copying equipment -- the printing press -- that gave rise to the original need for copyright protection.*fn12 Repeatedly, as new developments have

[ 464 U.S. Page 431]

     occurred in this country, it has been the Congress that has fashioned the new rules that new technology made necessary. Thus, long before the enactment of the Copyright Act of 1909, 35 Stat. 1075, it was settled that the protection given to copyrights is wholly statutory. Wheaton v. Peters, 8 Pet. 591, 661-662 (1834). The remedies for infringement "are only those prescribed by Congress." Thompson v. Hubbard, 131 U.S. 123, 151 (1889).

The judiciary's reluctance to expand the protections afforded by the copyright without explicit legislative guidance is a recurring theme. See, e. g., Teleprompter Corp. v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 415 U.S. 394 (1974); Fortnightly Corp. v. United Artists Television, Inc., 392 U.S. 390 (1968); White-Smith Music Publishing Co. v. Apollo Co., 209 U.S. 1 (1908); Williams & Wilkins Co. v. United States, 203 Ct. Cl. 74, 487 F.2d 1345 (1973), aff'd by an equally divided Court, 420 U.S. 376 (1975). Sound policy, as well as history, supports our consistent deference to Congress when major technological innovations alter the market for copyrighted materials. Congress has the constitutional authority and the institutional ability to accommodate fully the varied permutations of competing interests that are inevitably implicated by such new technology.

In a case like this, in which Congress has not plainly marked our course, we must be circumspect in construing the scope of rights created by a legislative enactment which never contemplated such a calculus of interests. In doing so, we are guided by Justice Stewart's exposition of the correct approach to ambiguities in the law of copyright:

"The limited scope of the copyright holder's statutory monopoly, like the limited copyright duration required by the Constitution, reflects a balance of competing claims upon the public interest: Creative work is to be

[ 464 U.S. Page 432]

     encouraged and rewarded, but private motivation must ultimately serve the cause of promoting broad public availability of literature, music, and the other arts. The immediate effect of our copyright law is to secure a fair return for an 'author's' creative labor. But the ultimate aim is, by this incentive, to stimulate artistic creativity for the general public good. 'The sole interest of the United States and the primary object in conferring the monopoly,' this Court has said, 'lie in the general benefits derived by the public from the labors of authors.' Fox Film Corp. v. Doyal, 286 U.S. 123, 127. See Kendall v. Winsor, 21 How. 322, 327-328; Grant v. Raymond, 6 Pet. 218, 241-242. When technological change has rendered its literal terms ambiguous, the Copyright Act must be construed in light of this basic purpose." Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, 422 U.S. 151, 156 (1975) (footnotes omitted).

Copyright protection "subsists . . . in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression." 17 U. S. C. § 102(a) (1982 ed.). This protection has never accorded the copyright owner complete control over all possible uses of his work.*fn13 Rather, the Copyright Act grants the

[ 464 U.S. Page 433]

     copyright holder "exclusive" rights to use and to authorize the use of his work in five qualified ways, including reproduction of the copyrighted work in copies. § 106.*fn14 All reproductions of the work, however, are not within the exclusive domain of the copyright owner; some are in the public domain. Any individual may reproduce a copyrighted wor for a "fair use"; the copyright owner does not possess the exclusive right to such a use. Compare § 106 with § 107.

"Anyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner," that is, anyone who trespasses into his exclusive domain by using or authorizing the use of the copyrighted work in one of the five ways set forth in the statute, "is an infringer of the copyright." § 501(a). Conversely, anyone who is authorized by the copyright owner to use the copyrighted work in a way specified in the statute or who makes a fair use of the work is not an infringer of the copyright with respect to such use.

The Copyright Act provides the owner of a copyright with a potent arsenal of remedies against an infringer of his work, including an injunction to restrain the infringer from violating

[ 464 U.S. Page 434]

     his rights, the impoundment and destruction of all reproductions of his work made in violation of his rights, a recovery of his actual damages and any additional profits realized by the infringer or a recovery of statutory damages, and attorney's fees. §§ 502-505.*fn15

The two respondents in this case do not seek relief against the Betamax users who have allegedly infringed their copyrights. Moreover, this is not a class action on behalf of all copyright owners who license their works for television broadcast, and respondents have no right to invoke whatever rights other copyright holders may have to bring infringement actions based on Betamax copying of their works.*fn16 As was made clear by their own evidence, the copying of the respondents' programs represents a small portion of the total use of VTR's. It is, however, the taping of respondents' own copyrighted programs that provides them with standing to charge Sony with contributory infringement. To prevail, they have the burden of proving that users of the Betamax have infringed their copyrights and that Sony should be held responsible for that infringement.


The Copyright Act does not expressly render anyone liable for infringement committed by another. In contrast, the

[ 464 U.S. Page 435]

     Patent Act expressly brands anyone who "actively induces infringement of a patent" as an infringer, 35 U. S. C. § 271(b), and further imposes liability on certain individuals labeled "contributory" infringers, § 271(c). The absence of such express language in the copyright statute does not preclude the imposition of liability for copyright infringements on certain parties who have not themselves engaged in the infringing activity.*fn17 For vicarious liability is imposed in virtually all areas of the law, and the concept of contributory infringement is merely a species of the broader problem of identifying the circumstances in which it is just to hold one individual accountable for the actions of another.

Such circumstances were plainly present in Kalem Co. v. Harper Brothers, 222 U.S. 55 (1911), the copyright decision of this Court on which respondents place their principal reliance. In Kalem, the Court held that the producer of an unauthorized film dramatization of the copyrighted book Ben Hur was liable for his sale of the motion picture to jobbers, who in turn arranged for the commercial exhibition of the film. Justice Holmes, writing for the Court, explained:

"The defendant not only expected but invoked by advertisement the use of its films for dramatic reproduction

[ 464 U.S. Page 436]

     of the story. That was the most conspicuous purpose for which they could be used, and the one for which especially they were made. If the defendant did not contribute to the infringement it is impossible to do so except by taking part in the final act. It is liable on principles recognized in every part of the law." Id., at 62-63.

The use for which the item sold in Kalem had been "especially" made was, of course, to display the performance that had already been recorded upon it. The producer had personally appropriated the copyright owner's protected work and, as the owner of the tangible medium of expression upon which the protected work was recorded, authorized that use by his sale of the film to jobbers. But that use of the film was not his to authorize: the copyright owner possessed the exclusive right to authorize public performances of his work. Further, the producer personally advertised the unauthorized public performances, dispelling any possible doubt as to the use of the film which he had authorized.

Respondents argue that Kalem stands for the proposition that supplying the "means" to accomplish an infringing activity and encouraging that activity through advertisement are sufficient to establish liability for copyright infringement. This argument rests on a gross generalization that cannot withstand scrutiny. The producer in Kalem did not merely provide the "means" to accomplish an infringing activity; the producer supplied the work itself, albeit in a new medium of expression. Sony in the instant case does not supply Betamax consumers with respondents' works; respondents do. Sony supplies a piece of equipment that is generally capable of copying the entire range of programs that may be televised: those that are uncopyrighted, those that are copyrighted but may be copied without objection from the copyright holder, and those that the copyright holder would prefer not to have copied. The Betamax can be used to

[ 464 U.S. Page 437]

     make authorized or unauthorized uses of copyrighted works, but the range of its potential use is much broader than the particular infringing use of the film Ben Hur involved in Kalem. Kalem does not support respondents' novel theory of liability.

Justice Holmes stated that the producer had "contributed" to the infringement of the copyright, and the label "contributory infringement" has been applied in a number of lower court copyright cases involving an ongoing relationship between the direct infringer and the contributory infringer at the time the infringing conduct occurred. In such cases, as in other situations in which the imposition of vicarious liability is manifestly just, the "contributory" infringer was in a position to control the use of copyrighted works by others and had authorized the use without permission from the copyright owner.*fn18 This case, however, plainly does not fall

[ 464 U.S. Page 438]

     in that category. The only contact between Sony and the users of the Betamax that is disclosed by this record occurred at the moment of sale. The District Court expressly found that "no employee of Sony, Sonam or DDBI had either direct involvement with the allegedly infringing activity or direct contact with purchasers of Betamax who recorded copyrighted works off-the-air." 480 F.Supp., at 460. And it further found that "there was no evidence that any of the copies made by Griffiths or the other individual witnesses in this suit were influenced or encouraged by [Sony's] advertisements." Ibid.

[ 464 U.S. Page 439]

     If vicarious liability is to be imposed on Sony in this case, it must rest on the fact that tit has sold equipment with constructive knowledge of the fact that its customers may use that equipment to make unauthorized copies of copyrighted material. There is no precedent in the law of copyright for the imposition of vicarious liability on such a theory. The closest analogy is provided by the patent law cases to which it is appropriate to refer because of the historic kinship between patent law and copyright law.*fn19

[ 464 U.S. Page 440]

     In the Patent Act both the concept of infringement and the concept of contributory infringement are expressly defined by statute.*fn20 The prohibition against contributory infringement is confined to the knowing sale of a component especially made for use in connection with a particular patent. There is no suggestion in the statute that one patentee may object to the sale of a product that might be used in connection with other patents. Moreover, the Act expressly provides that the sale of a "staple article or commodity of commerce suitable for substantial noninfringing use" is not contributory infringement. 35 U. S. C. § 271(c).

When a charge of contributory infringement is predicated entirely on the sale of an article of commerce that is used by the purchaser to infringe a patent, the public interest in access to that article of commerce is necessarily implicated. A

[ 464 U.S. Page 441]

     finding of contributory infringement does not, of course, remove the article from the market altogether; it does, however, give the patentee effective control over the sale of that item. Indeed, a finding of contributory infringement is normally the functional equivalent of holding that the disputed article is within the monopoly granted to the patentee.*fn21

For that reason, in contributory infringement cases arising under the patent laws the Court has always recognized the critical importance of not allowing the patentee to extend his monopoly beyond the limits of his specific grant. These cases deny the patentee any right to control the distribution of unpatented articles unless they are "unsuited for any commercial noninfringing use." Dawson Chemical Co. v. Rohm & Hass Co., 448 U.S. 176, 198 (1980). Unless a commodity "has no use except through practice of the patented method," id., at 199, the patentee has no right to claim that its distribution constitutes contributory infringement. "To form the basis for contributory infringement the item must almost be uniquely suited as a component of the patented invention." P. Rosenberg, Patent Law Fundamentals § 17.02[2] (2d ed. 1982). "[A] sale of an article which though adapted to an infringing use is also adapted to other and lawful uses, is not enough to make the seller a contributory infringer. Such a rule would block the wheels of commerce." Henry v. A. B. Dick Co., 224 U.S. 1, 48 (1912), overruled on other grounds,

[ 464 U.S. Page 442]

     A. Authorized Time-Shifting

Each of the respondents owns a large inventory of valuable copyrights, but in the total spectrum of television programming their combined market share is small. The exact percentage is not specified, but it is well below 10%.*fn22 If they were to prevail, the outcome of this litigation would have a significant impact on both the producers and the viewers of the remaining 90% of the programming in the Nation. No doubt, many other producers share respondents' concern about the possible consequences of unrestricted copying. Nevertheless the findings of the District Court make it clear that time-shifting may enlarge the total viewing audience and that many producers are willing to allow private time-shifting to continue, at least for an experimental time period.*fn23

The District Court found:

"Even if it were deemed that home-use recording of copyrighted material constituted infringement, the Betamax could still legally be used to record noncopyrighted material or material whose owners consented to the copying. An injunction would deprive the public of the ability to use the Betamax for this noninfringing off-the-air recording.

[ 464 U.S. Page 444]

     "Defendants introduced considerable testimony at trial about the potential for such copying of sports, religious, educational and other programming. This included testimony from representatives of the Offices of the Commissioners of the National Football, Basketball, Baseball and Hockey Leagues and Associations, the Executive Director of National Religious Broadcasters and various educational communications agencies. Plaintiffs attack the weight of the testimony offered and also contend that an injunction is warranted because infringing uses outweigh noninfringing uses.

"Whatever the future percentage of legal versus illegal home-use recording might be, an injunction which seeks to deprive the public of the very tool or article of commerce capable of some noninfringing use would be an extremely harsh remedy, as well as one unprecedented in copyright law." 480 F.Supp., at 468.

Although the District Court made these statements in the context of considering the propriety of injunctive relief, the statements constitute a finding that the evidence concerning "sports, religious, educational and other programming" was sufficient to establish a significant quantity of broadcasting whose copying is now authorized, and a significant potential for future authorized copying. That finding is amply supported by the record. In addition to the religious and sports officials identified explicitly by the District Court,*fn24 two items in the record deserve specific mention.

[ 464 U.S. Page 445]

     First is the testimony of John Kenaston, the station manager of Channel 58, an educational station in Los Angeles affiliated with the Public Broadcasting Service. He explained and authenticated the station's published guide to its programs.*fn25 For each program, the guide tells whether unlimited home taping is authorized, home taping is authorized subject to certain restrictions (such as erasure within seven days), or home taping is not authorized at all. The Spring 1978 edition of the guide described 107 programs. Sixty-two of those programs or 58% authorize some home taping. Twenty-one of them or almost 20% authorize unrestricted home taping.*fn26

Second is the testimony of Fred Rogers, 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 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.*fn27

[ 464 U.S. Page 446]

     If there are millions of owners of VTR's 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. The respondents do not represent a class composed of all copyright holders. Yet a finding of contributory infringement would inevitably frustrate the interests of broadcasters in reaching the portion of their audience that is available only through time-shifting.

Of course, the fact that other copyright holders may welcome the practice of time-shifting does not mean that respondents should be deemed to have granted a license to copy their programs. Third-party conduct would be wholly irrelevant in an action for direct infringement of respondents' copyrights. But in an action for contributory infringement against the seller of copying equipment, the copyright holder may not prevail unless the relief that he seeks affects only his programs, or unless he speaks for virtually all copyright holders with an interest in the outcome. In this case, the record makes it perfectly clear that there are many important producers of national and local television programs who find nothing objectionable about the enlargement in the size of the television audience that results from the practice of time-shifting for private home use.*fn28 The seller of the equipment that expands those producers' audiences cannot be a contributory

[ 464 U.S. Page 447]

     infringer if, as is true in this case, it has had no direct involvement with any infringing activity.

B. Unauthorized Time-Shifting

Even unauthorized uses of a copyrighted work are not necessarily infringing. An unlicensed use of the copyright is not an infringement unless it conflicts with one of the specific exclusive rights conferred by the copyright statute. Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, 422 U.S., at 154-155. Moreover, the definition of exclusive rights in § 106 of the present Act is prefaced by the words "subject to sections 107 through 118." Those sections describe a variety of uses of copyrighted material that "are not infringements of copyright" "notwithstanding the provisions of section 106." The most pertinent in this case is § 107, the legislative endorsement of the doctrine of "fair use."*fn29

[ 464 U.S. Page 448]

     That section identifies various factors*fn30 that enable a court to apply an "equitable rule of reason" analysis to particular claims of infringement.*fn31 Although not conclusive, the first

[ 464 U.S. Page 449]

     factor requires that "the commercial or nonprofit character of an activity" be weighed in any fair use decision.*fn32 If the Betamax were used to make copies for a commercial or profit-making purpose, such use would presumptively be unfair. The contrary presumption is appropriate here, however, because the District Court's findings plainly establish that time-shifting for private home use must be characterized as a noncommercial, nonprofit activity. Moreover, when one considers the nature of a televised copyrighted audiovisual work, see 17 U. S. C. § 107(2) (1982 ed.), and that time-shifting merely enables a viewer to see such a work which he had been invited to witness in its entirety free of charge, the fact

[ 464 U.S. Page 450]

     that the entire work is reproduced, see § 107(3), does not have its ordinary effect of militating against a finding of fair use.*fn33

This is not, however, the end of the inquiry because Congress has also directed us to consider "the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work." § 107(4). The purpose of copyright is to create incentives for creative effort. Even copying for noncommercial purposes may impair the copyright holder's ability to obtain the rewards that Congress intended him to have. But a use that has no demonstrable effect upon the potential market for, or the value of, the copyrighted work need not be prohibited in order to protect the author's incentive to create. The prohibition of such noncommercial uses would

[ 464 U.S. Page 451]

     merely inhibit access to ideas without any countervailing benefit.*fn34

Thus, although every commercial use of copyrighted material is presumptively an unfair exploitation of the monopoly privilege that belongs to the owner of the copyright, noncommercial uses are a different matter. A challenge to a noncommercial use of a copyrighted work requires proof either that the particular use is harmful, or that if it should become widespread, it would adversely affect the potential market for the copyrighted work. Actual present harm need not be shown; such a requirement would leave the copyright holder with no defense against predictable damage. Nor is it necessary to show with certainty that future harm will result. What is necessary is a showing by a preponderance of the evidence that some meaningful likelihood of future harm exists. If the intended use is for commercial gain, that likelihood may be presumed. But if it is for a noncommercial purpose, the likelihood must be demonstrated.

In this case, respondents failed to carry their burden with regard to home time-shifting. The District Court described respondents' evidence as follows:

"Plaintiffs' experts admitted at several points in the trial that the time-shifting without librarying would result in 'not a great deal of harm.' Plaintiffs' greatest concern about time-shifting is with 'a point of important philosophy that transcends even commercial judgment.' They fear that with any Betamax usage, 'invisible boundaries' are passed: 'the copyright owner has lost control over his program.'" 480 F.Supp., at 467.

[ 464 U.S. Page 452]

     Later in its opinion, the District Court observed:

"Most of plaintiffs' predictions of harm hinge on speculation about audience viewing patterns and ratings, a measurement system which Sidney Sheinberg, MCA's president, calls a 'black art' because of the significant level of imprecision involved in the calculations." Id., at 469.*fn35

There was no need for the District Court to say much about past harm. "Plaintiffs have admitted that no actual harm to their copyrights has occurred to date." Id., at 451.

On the question of potential future harm from time-shifting, the District Court offered a more detailed analysis of the evidence. It rejected respondents' "fear that persons 'watching' the original telecast of a program will not be measured in the live audience and the ratings and revenues will decrease," by observing that current measurement technology allows the Betamax audience to be reflected. Id., at 466.*fn36 It rejected respondents' prediction "that live television

[ 464 U.S. Page 453]

     or movie audiences will decrease as more people watch Betamax tapes as an alternative," with the observation that "[there] is no factual basis for [the underlying] assumption." Ibid.*fn37 It rejected respondents' "fear that time-shifting will reduce audiences for telecast reruns," and concluded instead that "given current market practices, this should aid plaintiffs rather than harm them." Ibid.*fn38 And it declared that respondents' suggestion that "theater or film rental exhibition of a program will suffer because of time-shift recording of that program" "lacks merit." Id., at 467.*fn39

[ 464 U.S. Page 454]

     After completing that review, the District Court restated its overall conclusion several times, in several different ways. "Harm from time-shifting is speculative and, at best, minimal." Ibid. "The audience benefits from the time-shifting capability have already been discussed. It is not implausible that benefits could also accrue to plaintiffs, broadcasters, and advertisers, as the Betamax makes it possible for more persons to view their broadcasts." Ibid. "No likelihood of harm was shown at trial, and plaintiffs admitted that there had been no actual harm to date." Id., at 468-469. "Testimony at trial suggested that Betamax may require adjustments in marketing strategy, but it did not establish even a likelihood of harm." Id., at 469. "Television production by plaintiffs today is more profitable than it has ever been, and, in five weeks of trial, there was no concrete evidence to suggest that the Betamax will change the studios' financial picture." Ibid.

The District Court's conclusions are buttressed by the fact that to the extent time-shifting expands public access to freely broadcast television programs, it yields societal benefits. In Community Television of Southern California v. Gottfried, 459 U.S. 498, 508, n. 12 (1983), we acknowledged the public interest in making television broadcasting more available. Concededly, that interest is not unlimited. But it supports an interpretation of the concept of "fair use" that requires the copyright holder to demonstrate some likelihood of harm before he may condemn a private act of time-shifting as a violation of federal law.

When these factors are all weighed in the "equitable rule of reason" balance, we must conclude that this record amply

[ 464 U.S. Page 455]

     supports the District Court's conclusion that home time-shifting is fair use. In light of the findings of the District Court regarding the state of the empirical data, it is clear that the Court of Appeals erred in holding that the statute as presently written bars such conduct.*fn40

[ 464 U.S. Page 456]

     In summary, the record and findings of the District Court lead us to two conclusions. First, Sony demonstrated a significant likelihood that substantial numbers of copyright holders who license their works for broadcast on free television would not object to having their broadcasts time-shifted by private viewers. And second, respondents failed to demonstrate that time-shifting would cause any likelihood of nonminimal harm to the potential market for, or the value of, their copyrighted works. The Betamax is, therefore, capable of substantial noninfringing uses. Sony's sale of such equipment to the general public does not constitute contributory infringement of respondents' copyrights.


"The direction of Art. I is that Congress shall have the power to promote the progress of science and the useful arts. When, as here, the Constitution is permissive, the sign of how far Congress has chosen to go can come only from Congress." Deepsouth Packing Co. v. Laitram Corp., 406 U.S. 518, 530 (1972).

One may search the Copyright Act in vain for any sign that the elected representatives of the millions of people who watch television every day have made it unlawful to copy a program for later viewing at home, or have enacted a flat prohibition against the sale of machines that make such copying possible.

It may well be that Congress will take a fresh look at this new technology, just as it so often has examined other innovations in the past. But it is not our job to apply laws that have not yet been written. Applying the copyright statute, as it now reads, to the facts as they have been developed in this case, the judgment of the Court of Appeals must be reversed.

It is so ordered.


659 F.2d 963, reversed.

[ 464 U.S. Page 457]


A restatement of the facts and judicial history of this case is necessary, in my view, for a proper focus upon the issues. Respondents' position is hardly so "unprecedented," ante, at 421, in the copyright law, nor does it really embody a "gross generalization," ante, at 436, or a "novel theory of liability," ante, at 437, and the like, as the Court, in belittling their claims, describes the efforts of respondents.


The introduction of the home videotape recorder (VTR) upon the market has enabled millions of Americans to make recordings of television programs in their homes, for future and repeated viewing at their own convenience. While this practice has proved highly popular with owners of television sets and VTR's, it understandably has been a matter of concern for the holders of copyrights in the recorded programs. A result is the present litigation, raising the issues whether the home recording of a copyrighted television program is an infringement of the copyright, and, if so, whether the manufacturers and distributors of VTR's are liable as contributory infringers. I would hope that these questions ultimately will be considered seriously and in depth by the Congress and be resolved there, despite the fact that the Court's decision today provides little incentive for congressional action. Our task in the meantime, however, is to resolve these issues as best we can in the light of ill-fitting existing copyright law.

It is no answer, of course, to refer to and stress, as the Court does, this Court's "consistent deference to Congress" whenever "major technological innovations" appear. Ante, at 431. Perhaps a better and more accurate description is that the Court has tended to evade the hard issues when they arise in the area of copyright law. I see no reason for the Court to be particularly pleased with this tradition or to continue it. Indeed, it is fairly clear from the legislative history of the 1976 Act that Congress meant to change the old pattern and

[ 464 U.S. Page 458]

     enact a statute that would cover new technologies, as well as old.


In 1976, respondents Universal City Studios, Inc., and Walt Disney Productions (Studios) brought this copyright infringement action in the United States District Court for the Central District of California against, among others, petitioners Sony Corporation, a Japanese corporation, and Sony Corporation of America, a New York corporation, the manufacturer and distributor, respectively, of the Betamax VTR. The Studios sought damages, profits, and a wide-ranging injunction against further sales or use of the Betamax or Betamax tapes.

The Betamax, like other VTR's, presently is capable of recording television broadcasts off the air on videotape cassettes, and playing them back at a later time.*fn1 Two kinds of Betamax usage are at issue here.*fn2 The first is "time-shifting," whereby the user records a program in order to watch it at a later time, and then records over it, and thereby erases the program, after a single viewing. The second is "library-building,"

[ 464 U.S. Page 459]

     in which the user records a program in order to keep it for repeated viewing over a longer term. Sony's advertisements, at various times, have suggested that Betamax users "record favorite shows" or "build a library." Sony's Betamax advertising has never contained warnings about copyright infringement, although a warning does appear in the Betamax operating instructions.

The Studios produce copyrighted "movies" and other works that they release to theaters and license for television broadcast. They also rent and sell their works on film and on prerecorded videotapes and videodiscs. License fees for television broadcasts are set according to audience ratings, compiled by rating services that do not measure any playbacks of videotapes. The Studios make the serious claim that VTR recording may result in a decrease in their revenue from licensing their works to television and from marketing them in other ways.

After a 5-week trial, the District Court, with a detailed opinion, ruled that home VTR recording did not infringe the Studios' copyrights under either the Act of Mar. 4, 1909 (1909 Act), 35 Stat. 1075, as amended (formerly codified as 17 U. S. C. § 1 et seq.), or the Copyright Revision Act of 1976 (1976 Act), 90 Stat. 2541, 17 U. S. C. § 101 et seq. (1982 ed.).*fn3 The District Court also held that even if home VTR recording were an infringement, Sony could not be held liable under theories of direct infringement, contributory infringement, or vicarious liability. Finally, the court concluded that an injunction against sales of the Betamax would be inappropriate even if Sony were liable under one or more of those theories. 480 F.Supp. 429 (1979).

[ 464 U.S. Page 460]

     The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed in virtually every respect. 659 F.2d 963 (1981). It held that the 1909 Act and the 1976 Act contained no implied exemption for "home use" recording, that such recording was not "fair use," and that the use of the Betamax to record the Studios' copyrighted works infringed their copyrights. The Court of Appeals also held Sony liable for contributory infringement, reasoning that Sony knew and anticipated that the Betamax would be used to record copyrighted material off the air, and that Sony, indeed, had induced, caused, or materially contributed to the infringing conduct. The Court of Appeals remanded the case to the District Court for appropriate relief; it suggested that the District Court could consider the award of damages or a continuing royalty in lieu of an injunction. Id., at 976.


The Copyright Clause of the Constitution, Art. I, § 8, cl. 8, empowers Congress "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." This Nation's initial copyright statute was passed by the First Congress. Entitled "An Act for the encouragement of learning," it gave an author "the sole right and liberty of printing, reprinting, publishing and vending" his "map, chart, book or books" for a period of 14 years. Act of May 31, 1790, § 1, 1 Stat. 124. Since then, as the technology available to authors for creating and preserving their writings has changed, the governing statute has changed with it. By many amendments, and by complete revisions in 1831, 1870, 1909, and 1976,*fn4 authors' rights have been

[ 464 U.S. Page 461]

     expanded to provide protection to any "original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression," including "motion pictures and other audiovisual works." 17 U. S. C. § 102(a) (1982 ed.).*fn5

Section 106 of the 1976 Act grants the owner of a copyright a variety of exclusive rights in the copyrighted work,*fn6 including

[ 464 U.S. Page 462]

     the right "to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords."*fn7 This grant expressly is made subject to §§ 107-118, which create a number of exemptions and limitations on the copyright owner's rights. The most important of these sections, for present purposes, is § 107; that section states that "the fair use of a copyrighted work . . . is not an infringement of copyright."*fn8

The 1976 Act, like its predecessors,*fn9 does not give the copyright owner full and complete control over all possible

[ 464 U.S. Page 463]

     uses of his work. If the work is put to some use not enumerated in § 106, the use is not an infringement. See Fortnightly Corp. v. United Artists Television, Inc., 392 U.S. 390, 393-395 (1968). Thus, before considering whether home videotaping comes within the scope of the fair use exemption, one first must inquire whether the practice appears to violate the exclusive right, granted in the first instance by § 106(1), "to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords."


Although the word "copies" is in the plural in § 106(1), there can be no question that under the Act the making of even a single unauthorized copy is prohibited. The Senate and House Reports explain: "The references to 'copies or phonorecords,' although in the plural, are intended here and throughout the bill to include the singular (1 U. S. C. § 1)."*fn10

[ 464 U.S. Page 464]

     S. Rep. No. 94-473, p. 58 (1975) (1975 Senate Report); H. R. Rep. No. 94-1476, p. 61 (1976) (1976 House Report). The Reports then describe the reproduction right established by § 106(1):

"[The] right 'to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords' means the right to produce a material object in which the work is duplicated, transcribed, imitated, or simulated in a fixed form from which it can be 'perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.' As under the present law, a copyrighted work would be infringed by reproducing it in whole or in any substantial part, and by duplicating it exactly or by imitation or simulation." 1975 Senate Report 58; 1976 House Report 61.

The making of even a single videotape recording at home falls within this definition; the VTR user produces a material object from which the copyrighted work later can be perceived. Unless Congress intended a special exemption for the making of a single copy for personal use, I must conclude that VTR recording is contrary to the exclusive rights granted by § 106(1).

The 1976 Act and its accompanying Reports specify in some detail the situations in which a single copy of a copyrighted work may be made without infringement concerns. Section 108(a), for example, permits a library or archives "to reproduce no more than one copy or phonorecord of a work" for a patron, but only under very limited conditions; an entire work, moreover, can be copied only if it cannot be obtained elsewhere at a fair price.*fn11 § 108(e); see also § 112(a) (broadcaster

[ 464 U.S. Page 465]

     may "make no more than one copy or phonorecord of a particular transmission program," and only under certain conditions). In other respects, the making of single copies is permissible only within the limited confines of the fair use doctrine. The Senate Report, in a section headed "Single and multiple copying," notes that the fair use doctrine would permit a teacher to make a single copy of a work for use in the classroom, but only if the work was not a "sizable" one such as a novel or treatise. 1975 Senate Report 63-64; accord, 1976 House Report 68-69, 71. Other situations in which the making of a single copy would be fair use are described in the House and Senate Reports.*fn12 But neither the statute nor its legislative history suggests any intent to create a general exemption for a single copy made for personal or private use.

 Indeed, it appears that Congress considered and rejected the very possibility of a special private use exemption. The issue was raised early in the revision process, in one of the studies prepared for Congress under the supervision of the Copyright Office. A. Latman, Fair Use of Copyrighted Works (1958), reprinted in Study No. 14 for the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Copyright Law Revision, Studies Prepared for the Subcommittee on Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights, 86th Cong., 2d Sess., 1 (1960) (Latman Fair Use Study). This study found no reported case supporting the existence of an exemption for private use, although it noted that "the purpose and nature of a private use, and in some

[ 464 U.S. Page 466]

     cases the small amount taken, might lead a court to apply the general principles of fair use in such a way as to deny liability." Id., at 12. After reviewing a number of foreign copyright laws that contained explicit statutory exemptions for private or personal use, id., at 25, Professor Latman outlined several approaches that a revision bill could take to the general issue of exemptions and fair use. One of these was the adoption of particularized rules to cover specific situations, including "the field of personal use." Id., at 33.*fn13

Rejecting the latter alternative, the Register of Copyrights recommended that the revised copyright statute simply mention the doctrine of fair use and indicate its general scope. The Register opposed the adoption of rules and exemptions to cover specific situations,*fn14 preferring, instead, to rely on the judge-made fair use doctrine to resolve new problems as they arose. See Register's 1961 Report 25; Register's Supplementary Report 27-28.

The Register's approach was reflected in the first copyright revision bills, drafted by the Copyright Office in 1964.

[ 464 U.S. Page 467]

     These bills, like the 1976 Act, granted the copyright owner the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work, subject only to the exceptions set out in later sections. H. R. 11947/S. 3008, 88th Cong., 2d Sess., § 5(a) (1964). The primary exception was fair use, § 6, containing language virtually identical to § 107 of the 1976 Act. Although the copyright revision bills underwent change in many respects from their first introduction in 1964 to their final passage in 1976, these portions of the bills did not change.*fn15 I can conclude only that Congress, like the Register, intended to rely on the fair use doctrine, and not on a per se exemption for private use, to separate permissible copying from the impermissible.*fn16

[ 464 U.S. Page 468]

     When Congress intended special and protective treatment for private use, moreover, it said so explicitly. One such explicit statement appears in § 106 itself. The copyright owner's exclusive right to perform a copyrighted work, in contrast to his right to reproduce the work in copies, is limited. Section 106(4) grants a copyright owner the exclusive right to perform the work "publicly," but does not afford the owner protection with respect to private performances by others. A motion picture is "performed" whenever its images are shown or its sounds are made audible. § 101. Like "[singing]

[ 464 U.S. Page 469]

     a copyrighted lyric in the shower," Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, 422 U.S. 151, 155 (1975), watching television at home with one's family and friends is now considered a performance. 1975 Senate Report 59-60; 1976 House Report 63.*fn17 Home television viewing nevertheless does not infringe any copyright -- but only because § 106(4) contains the word "publicly."*fn18 See generally 1975 Senate Report 60-61; 1976 House Report 63-64; Register's 1961 Report 29-30. No such distinction between public and private uses appears in § 106(1)'s prohibition on the making of copies.*fn19

Similarly, an explicit reference to private use appears in § 108. Under that section, a library can make a copy for a patron only for specific types of private use: "private study, scholarship, or research."*fn20 §§ 108(d)(1) and (e)(1); see 37 CFR § 201.14(b) (1983).

[ 464 U.S. Page 470]

     Limits also are imposed on the extent of the copying and the type of institution that may make copies, and the exemption expressly is made inapplicable to motion pictures and certain other types of works. § 108(h). These limitations would be wholly superfluous if an entire copy of any work could be made by any person for private use.*fn21


The District Court in this case nevertheless concluded that the 1976 Act contained an implied exemption for "home-use recording." 480 F.Supp., at 444-446. The court relied primarily on the legislative history of a 1971 amendment to the 1909 Act, a reliance that this Court today does not duplicate. Ante, at 430, n. 11. That amendment, however, was addressed to the specific problem of commercial piracy of sound recordings. Act of Oct. 15, 1971, 85 Stat. 391 (1971 Amendment). The House Report on the 1971 Amendment, in a section entitled "Home Recording," contains the following statement:

"In approving the creation of a limited copyright in sound recordings it is the intention of the Committee that this limited copyright not grant any broader rights than are accorded to other copyright proprietors under the existing title 17. Specifically, it is not the intention of the Committee to restrain the home recording, from broadcasts or from tapes or records, of recorded performances,

[ 464 U.S. Page 471]

     where the home recording is for private use and with no purpose of reproducing or otherwise capitalizing commercially on it. This practice is common and unrestrained today, and the record producers and performers would be in no different position from that of the owners of copyright in recorded musical compositions over the past 20 years." H. R. Rep. No. 92-487, p. 7 (1971) (1971 House Report).

Similar statements were made during House hearings on the bill*fn22 and on the House floor,*fn23 although not in the Senate

[ 464 U.S. Page 472]

     proceedings. In concluding that these statements created a general exemption for home recording, the District Court, in my view, paid too little heed to the context in which the statements were made, and failed to consider the limited purpose of the 1971 Amendment and the structure of the 1909 Act.

Unlike television broadcasts and other types of motion pictures, sound recordings were not protected by copyright prior to the passage of the 1971 Amendment. Although the underlying musical work could be copyrighted, the 1909 Act provided no protection for a particular performer's rendition of the work. Moreover, copyrighted musical works that had been recorded for public distribution were subject to a "compulsory license": any person was free to record such a work upon payment of a 2-cent royalty to the copyright owner. § 1(e), 35 Stat. 1075-1076. While reproduction without payment of the royalty was an infringement under the 1909 Act, damages were limited to three times the amount of the unpaid royalty. § 25(e), 35 Stat. 1081-1082; Shapiro, Bernstein & Co. v. Goody, 248 F.2d 260, 262-263, 265 (CA2 1957), cert. denied, 355 U.S. 952 (1958). It was observed that the practical effect of these provisions was to legalize record piracy. See S. Rep. No. 92-72, p. 4 (1971); 1971 House Report 2.

In order to suppress this piracy, the 1971 Amendment extended copyright protection beyond the underlying work and to the sound recordings themselves. Congress chose, however, to provide only limited protection: owners of copyright in sound recordings were given the exclusive right "[to] reproduce [their works] and distribute [them] to the public."

[ 464 U.S. Page 4731971]

     Amendment, § 1(a), 85 Stat. 391 (formerly codified as 17 U. S. C. § 1(f)).*fn24 This right was merely the right of commercial distribution. See 117 Cong. Rec. 34748-34749 (1971) (colloquy of Reps. Kazen and Kastenmeier) ("the bill protects copyrighted material that is duplicated for commercial purposes only").

Against this background, the statements regarding home recording under the 1971 Amendment appear in a very different light. If home recording was "common and unrestrained" under the 1909 Act, see 1971 House Report 7, it was because sound recordings had no copyright protection and the owner of a copyright in the underlying musical work could collect no more than a 2-cent royalty plus 6 cents in damages for each unauthorized use. With so little at stake, it is not at all surprising that the Assistant Register "[did] not see anybody going into anyone's home and preventing this sort of thing." 1971 House Hearings 23.

But the references to home sound recording in the 1971 Amendment's legislative history demonstrate no congressional intent to create a generalized home-use exemption from copyright protection. Congress, having recognized that the 1909 Act had been unsuccessful in controlling home sound recording, addressed only the specific problem of commercial record piracy. To quote Assistant Register Ringer again, home use was "not what this legislation [was] addressed to." Id., at 22.*fn25

[ 464 U.S. Page 474]

     While the 1971 Amendment narrowed the sound recordings loophole in then existing copyright law, motion pictures and other audiovisual works have been accorded full copyright protection since at least 1912, see Act of Aug. 24, 1912, 37 Stat. 488, and perhaps before, see Edison v. Lubin, 122 F. 240 (CA3 1903), appeal dism'd, 195 U.S. 625 (1904). Congress continued this protection in the 1976 Act. Unlike the sound recording rights created by the 1971 Amendment, the reproduction rights associated with motion pictures under § 106(1) are not limited to reproduction for public distribution; the copyright owner's right to reproduce the work exists independently, and the "mere duplication of a copy may constitute an infringement even if it is never distributed." Register's Supplementary Report 16; see 1975 Senate Report 57 and 1976 House Report 61. Moreover, the 1976 Act was intended as a comprehensive treatment of all aspects of copyright law. The Reports accompanying the 1976 Act, unlike the 1971 House Report, contain no suggestion that home-use recording is somehow outside the scope of this all-inclusive statute. It was clearly the intent of Congress that no additional exemptions were to be implied.*fn26

[ 464 U.S. Page 475]

     I therefore find in the 1976 Act no implied exemption to cover the home taping of television programs, whether it be for a single copy, for private use, or for home use. Taping a copyrighted television program is infringement unless it is permitted by the fair use exemption contained in § 107 of the 1976 Act. I now turn to that issue.


Fair Use

The doctrine of fair use has been called, with some justification, "the most troublesome in the whole law of copyright." Dellar v. Samuel Goldwyn, Inc., 104 F.2d 661, 662 (CA2 1939); see Triangle Publications, Inc. v. Knight-Ridder Newspapers, Inc., 626 F.2d 1171, 1174 (CA5 1980); Meeropol v. Nizer, 560 F.2d 1061, 1068 (CA2 1977), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 1013 (1978). Although courts have constructed lists of factors to be considered in determining whether a particular use is fair,*fn27 no fixed criteria have emerged by which that

[ 464 U.S. Page 476]

     determination can be made. This Court thus far has provided no guidance; although fair use issues have come here twice, on each occasion the Court was equally divided and no opinion was forthcoming. Williams & Wilkins Co. v. United States, 203 Ct. Cl. 74, 487 F.2d 1345 (1973), aff'd, 420 U.S. 376 (1975); Benny v. Loew's Inc., 239 F.2d 532 (CA9 1956), aff'd sub nom. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. v. Loew's Inc., 356 U.S. 43 (1958).

Nor did Congress provide definitive rules when it codified the fair use doctrine in the 1976 Act; it simply incorporated a list of factors "to be considered": the "purpose and character of the use," the "nature of the copyrighted work," the "amount and substantiality of the portion used," and, perhaps the most important, the "effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work" (emphasis supplied). § 107. No particular weight, however, was assigned to any of these, and the list was not intended to be exclusive. The House and Senate Reports explain that § 107 does no more than give "statutory recognition" to the fair use doctrine; it was intended "to restate the present judicial doctrine of fair use, not to change, narrow, or enlarge it in any way." 1976 House Report 66. See 1975 Senate Report 62; S. Rep. No. 93-983, p. 116 (1974); H. R. Rep. No. 83, 90th Cong., 1st Sess., 32 (1967); H. R. Rep. No. 2237, 89th Cong., 2d Sess., 61 (1966).

[ 464 U.S. Page 477]


Despite this absence of clear standards, the fair use doctrine plays a crucial role in the law of copyright. The purpose of copyright protection, in the words of the Constitution, is to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts." Copyright is based on the belief that by granting authors the exclusive rights to reproduce their works, they are given an incentive to create, and that "encouragement of individual effort by personal gain is the best way to advance public welfare through the talents of authors and inventors in 'Science and the useful Arts.'" Mazer v. Stein, 347 U.S. 201, 219 (1954). The monopoly created by copyright thus rewards the individual author in order to benefit the public. Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, 422 U.S., at 156; Fox Film Corp. v. Doyal, 286 U.S. 123, 127-128 (1932); see H. R. Rep. No. 2222, 60th Cong., 2d Sess., 7 (1909).

There are situations, nevertheless, in which strict enforcement of this monopoly would inhibit the very "Progress of Science and useful Arts" that copyright is intended to promote. An obvious example is the researcher or scholar whose own work depends on the ability to refer to and to quote the work of prior scholars. Obviously, no author could create a new work if he were first required to repeat the research of every author who had gone before him.*fn28 The scholar, like the ordinary user, of course could be left to bargain with each copyright owner for permission to quote from or refer to prior works. But there is a crucial difference between the scholar and the ordinary user. When the ordinary user decides that the owner's price is too high, and forgoes use of the work, only the individual is the loser. When the scholar forgoes the use of a prior work, not only does his own

[ 464 U.S. Page 478]

     work suffer, but the public is deprived of his contribution to knowledge. The scholar's work, in other words, produces external benefits from which everyone profits. In such a case, the fair use doctrine acts as a form of subsidy -- albeit at the first author's expense -- to permit the second author to make limited use of the first author's work for the public good. See Latman Fair Use Study 31; Gordon, Fair Use as Market Failure: A Structural Analysis of the Betamax Case and its Predecessors, 82 Colum. L. Rev. 1600, 1630 (1982).

A similar subsidy may be appropriate in a range of areas other than pure scholarship. The situations in which fair use is most commonly recognized are listed in § 107 itself; fair use may be found when a work is used "for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, . . . scholarship, or research." The House and Senate Reports expand on this list somewhat,*fn29 and other examples may be found in the case law.*fn30 Each of these uses, however, reflects a common theme: each is a productive use, resulting in some added benefit to the public beyond that produced by the first author's work.*fn31 The fair use doctrine, in other words, permits works

[ 464 U.S. Page 479]

     to be used for "socially laudable purposes." See Copyright Office, Briefing Papers on Current Issues, reprinted in 1975 House Hearings 2051, 2055. I am aware of no case in which the reproduction of a copyrighted work for the sole benefit of the user has been held to be fair use.*fn32

I do not suggest, of course, that every productive use is a fair use. A finding of fair use still must depend on the facts of the individual case, and on whether, under the circumstances, it is reasonable to expect the user to bargain with the copyright owner for use of the work. The fair use doctrine must strike a balance between the dual risks created by the copyright system: on the one hand, that depriving authors of their monopoly will reduce their incentive to create, and, on the other, that granting authors a complete monopoly will reduce the creative ability of others.*fn33 The inquiry is

[ 464 U.S. Page 480]

     necessarily a flexible one, and the endless variety of situations that may arise precludes the formulation of exact rules. But when a user reproduces an entire work and uses it for its original purpose, with no added benefit to the public, the doctrine of fair use usually does not apply. There is then no need whatsoever to provide the ordinary user with a fair use subsidy at the author's expense.

The making of a videotape recording for home viewing is an ordinary rather than a productive use of the Studios' copyrighted works. The District Court found that "Betamax owners use the copy for the same purpose as the original. They add nothing of their own." 480 F.Supp., at 453. Although applying the fair use doctrine to home VTR recording, as Sony argues, may increase public access to material broadcast free over the public airwaves, I think Sony's argument misconceives the nature of copyright. Copyright gives the author a right to limit or even to cut off access to his work. Fox Film Corp. v. Doyal, 286 U.S., at 127. A VTR recording creates no public benefit sufficient to justify limiting this right. Nor is this right extinguished by the copyright owner's choice to make the work available over the airwaves. Section 106 of the 1976 Act grants the copyright owner the exclusive right to control the performance and the reproduction of his work, and the fact that he has licensed a single television performance is really irrelevant to the existence of his right to control its reproduction. Although a television broadcast may be free to the viewer, this fact is equally irrelevant; a book borrowed from the public library may not be copied any more freely than a book that is purchased.

It may be tempting, as, in my view, the Court today is tempted, to stretch the doctrine of fair use so as to permit unfettered use of this new technology in order to increase access

[ 464 U.S. Page 481]

     to television programming. But such an extension risks eroding the very basis of copyright law, by depriving authors of control over their works and consequently of their incentive to create.*fn34 Even in the context of highly productive educational uses, Congress has avoided this temptation; in passing the 1976 Act, Congress made it clear that off-the-air videotaping was to be permitted only in very limited situations. See 1976 House Report 71; 1975 Senate Report 64. And, the Senate Report adds, "[the] committee does not intend to suggest . . . that off-the-air recording for convenience would under any circumstances, be considered 'fair use.'" Id., at 66. I cannot disregard these admonitions.


I recognize, nevertheless, that there are situations where permitting even an unproductive use would have no effect on the author's incentive to create, that is, where the use would not affect the value of, or the market for, the author's work. Photocopying an old newspaper clipping to send to a friend

[ 464 U.S. Page 482]

     may be an example; pinning a quotation on one's bulletin board may be another. In each of these cases, the effect on the author is truly de minimis. Thus, even though these uses provide no benefit to the public at large, no purpose is served by preserving the author's monopoly, and the use may be regarded as fair.

Courts should move with caution, however, in depriving authors of protection from unproductive "ordinary" uses. As has been noted above, even in the case of a productive use, § 107(4) requires consideration of "the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work" (emphasis added). "[A] particular use which may seem to have little or no economic impact on the author's rights today can assume tremendous importance in times to come." Register's Supplementary Report 14. Although such a use may seem harmless when viewed in isolation, "[isolated] instances of minor infringements, when multiplied many times, become in the aggregate a major inroad on copyright that must be prevented." 1975 Senate Report 65.

I therefore conclude that, at least when the proposed use is an unproductive one, a copyright owner need prove only a potential for harm to the market for or the value of the copyrighted work. See 3 M. Nimmer, Copyright § 13.05[E][4][c], p. 13-84 (1983). Proof of actual harm, or even probable harm, may be impossible in an area where the effect of a new technology is speculative, and requiring such proof would present the "real danger . . . of confining the scope of an author's rights on the basis of the present technology so that, as the years go by, his copyright loses much of its value because of unforeseen technical advances." Register's Supplementary Report 14. Infringement thus would be found if the copyright owner demonstrates a reasonable possibility that harm will result from the proposed use. When the use is one that creates no benefit to the public at large, copyright protection should not be denied on the basis that a new technology that may result in harm has not yet done so.

[ 464 U.S. Page 483]

     The Studios have identified a number of ways in which VTR recording could damage their copyrights. VTR recording could reduce their ability to market their works in movie theaters and through the rental or sale of prerecorded videotapes or videodiscs; it also could reduce their rerun audience, and consequently the license fees available to them for repeated showings. Moreover, advertisers may be willing to pay for only "live" viewing audiences, if they believe VTR viewers will delete commercials or if rating services are unable to measure VTR use; if this is the case, VTR recording could reduce the license fees the Studios are able to charge even for first-run showings. Library-building may raise the potential for each of the types of harm identified by the Studios, and time-shifting may raise the potential for substantial harm as well.*fn35

Although the District Court found no likelihood of harm from VTR use, 480 F.Supp., at 468, I conclude that it applied an incorrect substantive standard and misallocated the

[ 464 U.S. Page 484]

     burden of proof. The District Court reasoned that the Studios had failed to prove that library-building would occur "to any significant extent," id., at 467; that the Studios' prerecorded videodiscs could compete with VTR recordings and were "arguably . . . more desirable," ibid.; that it was "not clear that movie audiences will decrease," id., at 468; and that the practice of deleting commercials "may be too tedious" for many viewers, ibid. To the extent any decrease in advertising revenues would occur, the court concluded that the Studios had "marketing alternatives at hand to recoup some of that predicted loss." Id., at 452. Because the Studios' prediction of harm was "based on so many assumptions and on a system of marketing which is rapidly changing," the court was "hesitant to identify 'probable effects' of home-use copying." Ibid.

The District Court's reluctance to engage in prediction in this area is understandable, but, in my view, the court was mistaken in concluding that the Studios should bear the risk created by this uncertainty. The Studios have demonstrated a potential for harm, which has not been, and could not be, refuted at this early stage of technological development.

The District Court's analysis of harm, moreover, failed to consider the effect of VTR recording on "the potential market for or the value of the copyrighted work," as required by § 107(4).*fn36 The requirement that a putatively infringing use

[ 464 U.S. Page 485]

     of a copyrighted work, to be "fair," must not impair a "potential" market for the work has two implications. First, an infringer cannot prevail merely by demonstrating that the copyright holder suffered no net harm from the infringer's action. Indeed, even a showing that the infringement has resulted in a net benefit to the copyright holder will not suffice. Rather, the infringer must demonstrate that he had not impaired the copyright holder's ability to demand compensation from (or to deny access to) any group who would otherwise be willing to pay to see or hear the copyrighted work. Second, the fact that a given market for a copyrighted work would not be available to the copyright holder were it not for the infringer's activities does not permit the infringer to exploit that market without compensating the copyright holder. See Iowa State University Research Foundation, Inc. v. American Broadcasting Cos., 621 F.2d 57 (CA2 1980).

In this case, the Studios and their amici demonstrate that the advent of the VTR technology created a potential market for their copyrighted programs. That market consists of those persons who find it impossible or inconvenient to watch the programs at the time they are broadcast, and who wish to watch them at other times. These persons are willing to pay for the privilege of watching copyrighted work at their convenience, as is evidenced by the fact that they are willing to pay for VTR's and tapes; undoubtedly, most also would be willing to pay some kind of royalty to copyright holders. The Studios correctly argue that they have been deprived of the ability to exploit this sizable market.

It is thus apparent from the record and from the findings of the District Court that time-shifting does have a substantial

[ 464 U.S. Page 486]

     adverse effect upon the "potential market for" the Studios' copyrighted works. Accordingly, even under the formulation of the fair use doctrine advanced by Sony, time-shifting cannot be deemed a fair use.


Contributory Infringement

From the Studios' perspective, the consequences of home VTR recording are the same as if a business had taped the Studios' works off the air, duplicated the tapes, and sold or rented them to members of the public for home viewing. The distinction is that home VTR users do not record for commercial advantage; the commercial benefit accrues to the manufacturer and distributors of the Betamax. I thus must proceed to discuss whether the manufacturer and distributors can be held contributorily liable if the product they sell is used to infringe.

It is well established that liability for copyright infringement can be imposed on persons other than those who actually carry out the infringing activity. Kalem Co. v. Harper Brothers, 222 U.S. 55, 62-63 (1911); 3 M. Nimmer, Copyright § 12.04[A] (1983); see Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, 422 U.S., at 160, n. 11; Buck v. Jewell-LaSalle Realty Co., 283 U.S. 191, 198 (1931). Although the liability provision of the 1976 Act provides simply that "[anyone] who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner . . . is an infringer of the copyright," 17 U. S. C. § 501(a) (1982 ed.), the House and Senate Reports demonstrate that Congress intended to retain judicial doctrines of contributory infringement. 1975 Senate Report 57; 1976 House Report 61.*fn37

[ 464 U.S. Page 487]

     The doctrine of contributory copyright infringement, however, is not well defined. One of the few attempts at definition appears in Gershwin Publishing Corp. v. Columbia Artists Management, Inc., 443 F.2d 1159 (CA2 1971). In that case the Second Circuit stated that "one who, with knowledge of the infringing activity, induces, causes or materially contributes to the infringing conduct of another, may be held liable as a 'contributory' infringer." Id., at 1162 (footnote omitted). While I have no quarrel with this general statement, it does not easily resolve the present case; the District Court and the Court of Appeals, both purporting to apply it, reached diametrically opposite results.


In absolving Sony from liability, the District Court reasoned that Sony had no direct involvement with individual Betamax users, did not participate in any off-the-air copying, and did not know that such copying was an infringement of the Studios' copyright. 480 F.Supp., at 460. I agree with the Gershwin court that contributory liability may be imposed even when the defendant has no formal control over the infringer. The defendant in Gershwin was a concert promoter operating through local concert associations that it sponsored; it had no formal control over the infringing performers themselves. 443 F.2d, at 1162-1163. See also Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, 422 U.S., at 160, n. 11. Moreover, a finding of contributory infringement has never depended on actual knowledge of particular instances of infringement; it is sufficient that the defendant have reason to know that infringement is taking place. 443 F.2d, at 1162;

[ 464 U.S. Page 488]

     see Screen Gems-Columbia Music, Inc. v. Mark-Fi Records, Inc., 256 F.Supp. 399 (SDNY 1966).*fn38 In the so-called "dance hall" cases, in which questions of contributory infringement arise with some frequency, proprietors of entertainment establishments routinely are held liable for unauthorized performances on their premises, even when they have no knowledge that copyrighted works are being performed. In effect, the proprietors in those cases are charged with constructive knowledge of the performances.*fn39

[ 464 U.S. Page 489]

     Nor is it necessary that the defendant be aware that the infringing activity violates the copyright laws. Section 504(c)(2) of the 1976 Act provides for a reduction in statutory damages when an infringer proves he "was not aware and had no reason to believe that his or her acts constituted an infringement of copyright," but the statute establishes no general exemption for those who believe their infringing activities are legal. Moreover, such an exemption would be meaningless in a case such as this, in which prospective relief is sought; once a court has established that the copying at issue is infringement, the defendants are necessarily aware of that fact for the future. It is undisputed in this case that Sony had reason to know the Betamax would be used by some owners to tape copyrighted works off the air. See 480 F.Supp., at 459-460.

The District Court also concluded that Sony had not caused, induced, or contributed materially to any infringing activities of Betamax owners. Id., at 460. In a case of this kind, however, causation can be shown indirectly; it does not depend on evidence that particular Betamax owners relied on particular advertisements. In an analogous case decided just two Terms ago, this Court approved a lower court's conclusion that liability for contributory trademark infringement could be imposed on a manufacturer who "suggested, even by implication" that a retailer use the manufacturer's goods to infringe the trademark of another. Inwood Laboratories, Inc. v. Ives Laboratories, Inc., 456 U.S. 844, 851 (1982); see id., at 860 (opinion concurring in result). I think this standard is equally appropriate in the copyright context.

The District Court found that Sony has advertised the Betamax as suitable for off-the-air recording of "favorite shows," "novels for television," and "classic movies," 480 F.Supp., at 436, with no visible warning that such recording

[ 464 U.S. Page 490]

     could constitute copyright infringement. It is only with the aid of the Betamax or some other VTR, that it is possible today for home television viewers to infringe copyright by recording off-the-air. Off-the-air recording is not only a foreseeable use for the Betamax, but indeed is its intended use. Under the circumstances, I agree with the Court of Appeals that if off-the-air recording is an infringement of copyright, Sony has induced and materially contributed to the infringing conduct of Betamax owners.*fn40


Sony argues that the manufacturer or seller of a product used to infringe is absolved from liability whenever the product can be put to any substantial noninfringing use. Brief for Petitioners 41-42. The District Court so held, borrowing the "staple article of commerce" doctrine governing liability for contributory infringement of patents. See 35 U. S. C. § 271.*fn41 This Court today is much less positive. See ante,

[ 464 U.S. Page 491]

     at 440-442. I do not agree that this technical judge-made doctrine of patent law, based in part on considerations irrelevant to the field of copyright, see generally Dawson Chemical Co. v. Rohm & Haas Co., 448 U.S. 176, 187-199 (1980), should be imported wholesale into copyright law. Despite their common constitutional source, see U.S. Const., Art. I, § 8, cl. 8, patent and copyright protections have not developed in a parallel fashion, and this Court in copyright cases in the past has borrowed patent concepts only sparingly. See Bobbs-Merrill Co. v. Straus, 210 U.S. 339, 345-346 (1908).

I recognize, however, that many of the concerns underlying the "staple article of commerce" doctrine are present in copyright law as well. As the District Court noted, if liability for contributory infringement were imposed on the manufacturer or seller of every product used to infringe -- a typewriter, a camera, a photocopying machine -- the "wheels of commerce" would be blocked. 480 F.Supp., at 461; see also Kalem Co. v. Harper Brothers, 222 U.S., at 62.

I therefore conclude that if a significant portion of the product's use is noninfringing, the manufacturers and sellers cannot be held contributorily liable for the product's infringing uses. See ante, at 440-441. If virtually all of the product's use, however, is to infringe, contributory liability may be imposed; if no one would buy the product for noninfringing purposes alone, it is clear that the manufacturer is purposely profiting from the infringement, and that liability is appropriately imposed. In such a case, the copyright owner's monopoly would not be extended beyond its proper bounds; the manufacturer of such a product contributes to the infringing activities of others and profits directly thereby, while

[ 464 U.S. Page 492]

     providing no benefit to the public sufficient to justify the infringement.

The Court of Appeals concluded that Sony should be held liable for contributory infringement, reasoning that "[videotape] recorders are manufactured, advertised, and sold for the primary purpose of reproducing television programming," and "[virtually] all television programming is copyrighted material." 659 F.2d, at 975. While I agree with the first of these propositions,*fn42 the second, for me, is problematic. The key question is not the amount of television programming that is copyrighted, but rather the amount of VTR usage that is infringing.*fn43 Moreover, the parties and their amici have argued vigorously about both the amount of television programming that is covered by copyright and the amount for which permission to copy has been given. The proportion of VTR recording that is infringing is ultimately a question of fact,*fn44 and the District Court specifically declined to make

[ 464 U.S. Page 493]

     findings on the "percentage of legal versus illegal home-use recording." 480 F.Supp., at 468. In light of my view of the law, resolution of this factual question is essential. I therefore would remand the case for further consideration of this by the District Court.


The Court has adopted an approach very different from the one I have outlined. It is my view that the Court's approach alters dramatically the doctrines of fair use and contributory infringement as they have been developed by Congress and the courts. Should Congress choose to respond to the Court's decision, the old doctrines can be resurrected. As it stands, however, the decision today erodes much of the coherence that these doctrines have struggled to achieve.

The Court's disposition of the case turns on its conclusion that time-shifting is a fair use. Because both parties agree that time-shifting is the primary use of VTR's, that conclusion, if correct, would settle the issue of Sony's liability under almost any definition of contributory infringement. The Court concludes that time-shifting is fair use for two reasons. Each is seriously flawed.

The Court's first reason for concluding that time-shifting is fair use is its claim that many copyright holders have no objection to time-shifting, and that "respondents have no right to prevent other copyright holders from authorizing it for their programs." Ante, at 442. The Court explains that a finding of contributory infringement would "inevitably frustrate the interests of broadcasters in reaching the portion of their audience that is available only through time-shifting."

[ 464 U.S. Page 494]

     The Court's second stated reason for finding that Sony is not liable for contributory infringement is its conclusion that even unauthorized time-shifting is fair use. Ante, at 447 et seq. This conclusion is even more troubling. The Court begins by suggesting that the fair use doctrine operates as a general "equitable rule of reason." That interpretation mischaracterizes the doctrine, and simply ignores the language of the statute. Section 107 establishes the fair use doctrine "for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, . . . scholarship, or research." These are all productive uses. It is true that the legislative history states repeatedly that the doctrine must be applied flexibly on a case-by-case basis, but those references were only in the context of productive uses. Such a limitation on fair use comports with its purpose, which is to facilitate the creation of new works. There is no indication that the fair use doctrine has any application for purely personal consumption on the scale involved in this case,*fn46 and the Court's application of it here deprives fair use of the major cohesive force that has guided evolution of the doctrine in the past.

[ 464 U.S. Page 496]

     Having bypassed the initial hurdle for establishing that a use is fair, the Court then purports to apply to time-shifting the four factors explicitly stated in the statute. The first is "the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes." § 107(1). The Court confidently describes time-shifting as a noncommercial, nonprofit activity. It is clear, however, that personal use of programs that have been copied without permission is not what § 107(1) protects. The intent of the section is to encourage users to engage in activities the primary benefit of which accrues to others. Time-shifting involves no such humanitarian impulse. It is likewise something of a mischaracterization of time-shifting to describe it as noncommercial in the sense that that term is used in the statute. As one commentator has observed, time-shifting is noncommercial in the same sense that stealing jewelry and wearing it -- instead of reselling it -- is noncommercial.*fn47 Purely consumptive uses are certainly not what the fair use doctrine was designed to protect, and the awkwardness of applying the statutory language to time-shifting only makes clearer that fair use was designed to protect only uses that are productive.

The next two statutory factors are all but ignored by the Court -- though certainly not because they have no applicability. The second factor -- "the nature of the copyrighted work" -- strongly supports the view that time-shifting is an infringing use. The rationale guiding application of this factor is that certain types of works, typically those involving "more of diligence than of originality or inventiveness," New York Times Co. v. Roxbury Data Interface, Inc., 434 F.Supp. 217, 221 (NJ 1977), require less copyright protection than other original works. Thus, for example, informational

[ 464 U.S. Page 497]

     works, such as news reports, that readily lend themselves to productive use by others, are less protected than creative works of entertainment. Sony's own surveys indicate that entertainment shows account for more than 80% of the programs recorded by Betamax owners.*fn48

The third statutory factor -- "the amount and substantiality of the portion used" -- is even more devastating to the Court's interpretation. It is undisputed that virtually all VTR owners record entire works, see 480 F.Supp., at 454, thereby creating an exact substitute for the copyrighted original. Fair use is intended to allow individuals engaged in productive uses to copy small portions of original works that will facilitate their own productive endeavors. Time-shifting bears no resemblance to such activity, and the complete duplication that it involves might alone be sufficient to preclude a finding of fair use. It is little wonder that the Court has chosen to ignore this statutory factor.*fn49

The fourth factor requires an evaluation of "the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work." This is the factor upon which the Court focuses, but once again, the Court has misread the statute. As mentioned above, the statute requires a court to consider the effect of the use on the potential market for the copyrighted work. The Court has struggled mightily to show that VTR use has not reduced the value of the Studios' copyrighted works in their present markets. Even if true, that showing only begins the proper inquiry. The development

[ 464 U.S. Page 498]

     of the VTR has created a new market for the works produced by the Studios. That market consists of those persons who desire to view television programs at times other than when they are broadcast, and who therefore purchase VTR recorders to enable them to time-shift.*fn50 Because time-shifting of the Studios' copyrighted works involves the copying of them, however, the Studios are entitled to share in the benefits of that new market. Those benefits currently go to Sony through Betamax sales. Respondents therefore can show harm from VTR use simply by showing that the value of their copyrights would increase if they were compensated for the copies that are used in the new market. The existence of this effect is self-evident.

Because of the Court's conclusion concerning the legality of time-shifting, it never addresses the amount of noninfringing use that a manufacturer must show to absolve itself from liability as a contributory infringer. Thus, it is difficult to discuss how the Court's test for contributory infringement would operate in practice under a proper analysis of time-shifting. One aspect of the test as it is formulated by the Court, however, particularly deserves comment. The Court explains that a manufacturer of a product is not liable for contributory infringement as long as the product is "capable of substantial noninfringing uses." Ante, at 442 (emphasis supplied). Such a definition essentially eviscerates the concept of contributory infringement. Only the most unimaginative manufacturer would be unable to demonstrate that a image-duplicating product is "capable" of substantial noninfringing uses. Surely Congress desired to prevent the sale of products that are used almost exclusively to infringe copyrights;

[ 464 U.S. Page 499]

     the fact that noninfringing uses exist presumably would have little bearing on that desire.

More importantly, the rationale for the Court's narrow standard of contributory infringement reveals that, once again, the Court has confused the issue of liability with that of remedy. The Court finds that a narrow definition of contributory infringement is necessary in order to protect "the rights of others freely to engage in substantially unrelated areas of commerce." Ante, at 442. But application of the contributory infringement doctrine implicates such rights only if the remedy attendant upon a finding of liability were an injunction against the manufacture of the product in question. The issue of an appropriate remedy is not before the Court at this time, but it seems likely that a broad injunction is not the remedy that would be ordered. It is unfortunate that the Court has allowed its concern over a remedy to infect its analysis of liability.


The Court of Appeals, having found Sony liable, remanded for the District Court to consider the propriety of injunctive or other relief. Because of my conclusion as to the issue of liability, I, too, would not decide here what remedy would be appropriate if liability were found. I concur, however, in the Court of Appeals' suggestion that an award of damages, or continuing royalties, or even some form of limited injunction, may well be an appropriate means of balancing the equities in this case.*fn51 Although I express no view on the merits

[ 464 U.S. Page 500]

     of any particular proposal, I am certain that, if Sony were found liable in this case, the District Court would be able to fashion appropriate relief. The District Court might conclude, of course, that a continuing royalty or other equitable relief is not feasible. The Studios then would be relegated to statutory damages for proven instances of infringement. But the difficulty of fashioning relief, and the possibility that complete relief may be unavailable, should not affect our interpretation of the statute.

Like so many other problems created by the interaction of copyright law with a new technology, "[there] can be no really satisfactory solution to the problem presented here, until Congress acts." Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, 422 U.S., at 167 (dissenting opinion). But in the absence of a congressional solution, courts cannot avoid difficult problems by refusing to apply the law. We must "take the Copyright Act . . . as we find it," Fortnightly Corp. v. United Artists Television, Inc., 392 U.S., at 401-402, and "do as little damage as possible to traditional copyright principles . . . until the Congress legislates." Id., at 404 (dissenting opinion).


* Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed for the Virginia Citizens' Consumer Council, Inc., et al. by William A. Dobrovir; for the American Library Association by Newton N. Minow; for the Consumer Electronics Group by J. Edward Day; for the Educators Ad Hoc Committee on Copyright Law by Michael H. Cardozo, August W. Steinhilber, and Gwendolyn H. Gregory; for General Electric Co. et al. by Alfred B. Engelberg, Morton Amster, Jesse Rothstein, and Joel E. Lutzker; for Hitachi, Ltd., et al. by John W. Armagost and Craig B. Jorgensen; for McCann-Erickson, Inc., et al. by John A. Donovan, A. Howard Matz, and David Fleischer; for Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co. et al. by Sidney A. Diamond and Grier Curran Raclin; for the National Retail Merchants Association by Peter R. Stern, Theodore S. Steingut, and Robert A. Weiner; for Sanyo Electric, Inc., by Anthony Liebig; for Sears, Roebuck and Co. by Max L. Gillam and Mary E. Woytek; for TDK Electronics Co., Ltd., by Ko-Yung Tung and Adam Yarmolinsky; for Toshiba Corp. et al. by Donald J. Zoeller and Herve Gouraige; for Pfizer Inc. by Steven C. Kany; and for Viare Publishing by Peter F. Marvin.

Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the Association of American Publishers, Inc., et al. by Charles H. Lieb and Jon A. Baumgarten; for the Authors League of America, Inc., by Irwin Karp; for CBS Inc. by Lloyd N. Cutler, Louis R. Cohen, and George Vradenburg III; for Creators and Distributors of Programs by Stuart Robinowitz and Andrew J. Peck; for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Moving Picture Machine Operators of the United States and Canada, AFL-CIO, by Leo Geffner; for the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc., by Richard M. Cooper, Ellen S. Huvelle, and William Nix; for the National Music Publishers' Association, Inc., by Jon A. Baumgarten; for the Recording Industry Association of America, Inc., by James F. Fitzpatrick, Cary H. Sherman, and Ernest S. Meyers; for Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, Inc., by I. Fred Koenigsberg; and for the Writers Guild of America, West, Inc., et al. by Paul P. Selvin, Jerome B. Lurie, and Paul S. Berger.

Briefs of amici curiae were filed for the State of Missouri et al. by John Ashcroft, Attorney General of Missouri, and by the Attorneys General for their respective States as follows: Charles A. Graddick of Alabama, John Steven Clark of Arkansas, Michael J. Bowers of Georgia, Tany S. Hong of Hawaii, Tyrone C. Fahner of Illinois, Thomas J. Miller of Iowa, William J. Guste, Jr., of Louisiana, William A. Allain of Mississippi, Michael T. Greely of Montana, Rufus L. Edmisten of North Carolina, William J. Brown of Ohio, Jan Eric Cartwright of Oklahoma, Dennis J. Roberts II of Rhode Island, John J. Easton of Vermont, Gerald L. Baliles of Virginia, and Bronson C. La Follette of Wisconsin; and for the Committee on Copyright and Literary Property of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York by Michael S. Oberman and David H. Marks.

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