So you are saying before the doctrine of fair use I was breaking the law by recording He-Man on tape when I was 4 years old? If I watch it now am I breaking the law because it may be released on DVD 30 years from now?
Yes, because you did that in leu of buying He-man on tape.
I was under the impression that once you buy something you can what you want with it.
Surely you don't believe that when you buy a piece of music or piece of software, you suddenly gain the right to do whatever you want with it, including making a copy for all of your friends? That's not how ownership works. You were not sold the rights to the work, you were sold one copy for your own personal use.
I just gave some old books to one of my friends. Does that violate the copyright rules too?
No. However, if you had copied the book and gave the original to your friend, or kept the original and gave a copy to the friend, that would violate copyright law. On the other hand, if you kept the original on your bookshelf and made a copy to keep in your bathroom for reading, that would be legal under "fair use."
More specically, I want to record content now and watch it wherever I want in my own home. I spent a small fortune on high def tvs, sound equipment, chairs, a screen, etc. Why can't I watch it when and where I want?
Watching a program on a cable channel is no different than renting a DVD or paying for a PPV program, as far as the law is concerned. You are 'paying' for the right to watch it once
by sitting through the commercials. In the past, it was unlawful to record a copy for viewing later --- you had to either buy a copy from the owner, or watch it the next time it was rebroadcast with new commercial sponsors. Now thanks to fair use doctrine, it is legal to timeshift -- to record content for viewing at a later time [instead of watching it live]. Note this is different from archival -- when you archive, you are keeping a permanent copy for unlimited viewing in the future, and you do not own and you did not 'pay' for the right to do that.