The Generativity of Sony V. Universal: The Intellectual Legacy of Justice Stevens
Author(s): Pamela Samuelson
Abstract: Justice John Paul Stevens is best known in the intellectual property field for his decision for the Court in Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc. Sony is among the most significant IP decisions rendered by the Court during the three decades of Justice Stevens’s tenure there because of its impact on the copyright and information technology industries.
While Sony is known mainly for the safe harbor from copyright challenges that it established for technologies suitable for substantial non-infringing uses, this article will discuss the generativity of the Sony decision, that is, the impact the decision has had in a range of cases presenting very different facts and legal issues than the Court faced in Sony. Software reverse engineers, add-on software developers, Internet service and access providers, and Internet search engine firms have all relied on Sony in successfully defending against direct and indirect claims of copyright infringement. Sony is likely to continue to be significant in mediating disputes between copyright industries and creative information technology developers and users of information technology.
The article asserts that Sony’s generativity is due, in part, to the limited monopoly framework for analyzing copyright claims articulated by Justice Stevens in Sony, which contrasts starkly with the proprietarian framework used in Justice Blackmun’s dissent.
Keywords: copyright, intellectual property, secondary liability