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Thank (or blame) John Paul Stevens for your binge-watching habit

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Many Americans are mourning John Paul Stevens, the retired Supreme Court justice who died Tuesday at age 99, as the liberal lion who stood for gay rights, campaign-finance reform and government power to regulate gun ownership.

All true. But let us never forget Stevens’s most transformational cultural contribution on the court — as the intellectual godfather of binge-watching.

Seriously: Stevens was the author of a landmark 1984 ruling that thwarted the entertainment industry’s efforts to control in-home video recording of television programs, clearing a legal path not only for the VCR but also for all the consumer-controlled viewing that followed it — from the DVD to Facebook to Netflix.

Long ago and far away, during the late 1970s, the hot new technology was something called the Betamax, a gizmo from Sony that enabled you to record your favorite TV show on a clunky cassette tape and then play it back at your convenience — or sell it.

Sensing, correctly, a threat to their absolute monopoly on copyrighted material, but unable to go after every homeowner in America, Hollywood took aim at Sony, suing in federal court to make the Japanese company either stop selling Betamaxes in the United........

© Washington Post