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Thursday, November 12, 2015

RIP Betamax

Betamax was Sony's ultimately unsuccessful alternative to JVC's dominant consumer videotape format, VHS. Copyright scholars are unusually familiar with Betamax, due to Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 464 U.S. 417 (1984), the “Betamax case," in which the Supreme Court held that Sony was not liable for secondary infringement for selling videotape recorders, because they had substantial non-infringing uses, like "time-shifting" or recording a television program in order to watch it later. Surprisingly, even though Betamax lost the format war to VHS, and videotape was superseded by the Internet, Sony kept on making blank Betamax tapes. Until now. On Tuesday, November 10, Sony announced that it will stop making Betamax tapes in March 2016. It's the end of an era. Which most people assumed ended about 30 years ago.


Posted by Brian Frye on November 12, 2015 at 01:52 AM | Permalink


Thanks, Charles! I was aware of Beta SP & so on, but didn't realize that Betamax was still used for so long as well. It's always unfortunate when a format is abandoned, especially because it makes an archivist's work so much more difficult. I know that a lot of archives are currently having trouble with 3/4" videotape.

Posted by: Brian L. Frye | Nov 12, 2015 11:44:07 AM

While Beta lost the consumer format war, it was used widely in the media industry for decades because it was higher quality and the tapes were smaller, and TV stations were not as price sensitive as consumers.

Posted by: Charles Paul Hoffman | Nov 12, 2015 9:31:06 AM

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