In broadcasting, time shifting is the recording of programming to a storage medium to be viewed or listened to after the live broadcasting. Typically, this refers to TV programming but can also refer to radio shows via podcasts.
In recent years, the advent of the digital video recorder (DVR) has made time shifting easier, by using an electronic program guide (EPG) and recording shows onto a hard disk. Some DVRs have other possible time shifting methods, such as being able to start watching the recorded show from the beginning even if the recording is not yet complete. In the past, time shifting was done with a video cassette recorder (VCR) and its timer function, in which the VCR tunes into the appropriate station and records the show onto video tape.
Certain broadcasters transmit timeshifted versions of their channels, usually one hour in the past, to enable those without recording abilities to resolve conflicts and those with recording abilities more flexibility in scheduling conflicting recordings. (See timeshift channel.)
The major legal issue involved in time shifting concerns "fair use" law and the possibility of copyright infringement. This legal issue is first raised in the landmark court case of Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc. or the "Betamax case". In 1979, Universal sued Sony, claiming its timed recording capability amounted to copyright infringement. The Supreme Court of the United States found in favor of Sony; the majority decision held that time shifting was a fair use, represented no substantial harm to the copyright holder and would not contribute to a diminished marketplace for its product.
By 1985 cable movie channels encouraged time shifting by broadcasting films subscribers wanted for their home libraries overnight, so their VCRs could record them while they slept. Some providers, such as satellite TV companies, have introduced digital video recorder (DVR) features allowing consumers to skip over advertising entirely when watching a program which has been recorded to their DVR. The legality of this service, for which an extra fee can be assessed, has been challenged by television broadcasters, who assert that this form of time shifting is a violation of their copyright.