February 15, 2011

Aging VHS tapes raise copyright questions

Three different VHS-family video cassettes. Fr...Image via Wikipedia
What happens to commercially available VHS titles when they die?

For Research Library collections across the continent, physical degradation of the media housing valuable, unique, and out–of–print video material looms immanent. Current copyright laws are often an obstacle to in creating reformatted copies of valuable resources encoded in outmoded, non-digital formats.

A two-year study, funded by The Mellon Foundation in collaboration with New York University's Division of Libraries the University of California Berkeley and Loyola University (New Orleans)  among others will address this  challenge.

Spanning a 2-year period, Video At Risk will involve five closely related elements:
  • Documenting the scarcity and replaceability issues of general circulation video collections.
  • Testing the market and other conditions surrounding the preservation of such video collections through replacement acquisition.
  • Researching the intellectual property conditions defining our ability to create digital replacement copies of commercial video content.
  • Establishing guidelines for the replacement of video content to parallel those already in place for the preservation of paper-based materials.
  • Experimentation with the use of a digitization vendor to reformat circulating videos and establish a model request for proposal for use with such vendors.
While the study's findings and recommendations on intellectual property issues will not apply in Canada, due to differences in  US and Canadian copyright law; other findings on topics such as:  finding new and functional VHS equipment, audiovisual trends
amongst faculty, and the growing problem of waning technical support for VHS in classrooms will be of keen interest to campus classroom instructors and videophiles.

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