Fred Rogers and Copyright Law

I was trying to find an MP3 of Mister Roger’s song “It’s such a good feeling…” because I think it would make me happy if I listened to it… and I came across this text. Very interesting stuff.

Fred Rogers’ testimony in the landmark case of Sony Corp. V. Universal City Studios (1983) was literally pivotal in persuading five Justices of the United States Supreme Court to permit home viewers to record television broadcasts on VCRs for personal use. According to the opinion of Justice Stevens:

…two items in the record deserve specific mention.

[464 U.S. 417, 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. … 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.

27 [464 U.S. 417, 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. [Footnote 27] “Some public stations, as well as commercial stations, program the ‘Neighborhood’ at hours when some children cannot use it. I think that it’s a real service to families to be able to record such programs and show them at appropriate times. I have always felt that with the advent of all of this new technology that allows people to tape the ‘Neighborhood’ off-the-air, and I’m speaking for the ‘Neighborhood’ because that’s what I produce, that they then become much more active in the programming of their family’s television life. Very frankly, I am opposed to people being programmed by others. My whole approach in broadcasting has always been ‘You are an important person just the way you are. You can make healthy decisions.’ Maybe I’m going on too long, but I just feel that anything that allows a person to be more active in the control of his or her life, [464 U.S. 417, 446] in a healthy way, is important.” Id., at 2920-2921. See also Defendants’ Exh. PI, p. 85.

%d bloggers like this: