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Licensing Questions Thread, VHS >> DVD, possible? in Technical; We're facing a growing issue where VHS players are dying and they are not being purchased anymore. Some of the ...
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    VHS >> DVD, possible?

    We're facing a growing issue where VHS players are dying and they are not being purchased anymore. Some of the content on these VHS tapes are still valuable, hence why they are still used, but the lack of plentiful VHS players to show the content has been a concern.

    I began to wonder if we could just rip the VHS's and burn them to DVDs, but I'm unsure of the legalities behind this. I thought I remember reading about some copyright law that allows users to rip/burn/do whatever they want with their media as long as they use it in the same demeanor as the original media intended. In other words, if I have a DVD, I can legally rip that DVD and store it on my personal server. I mean, it's still mine, and I'm still using it in the same way that I did before when I had the DVD. I'm not sure where I read this or even if it's entirely accurate, but it's a vague memory in my mind that is sticking out, so I figured I'd ask.

    Ultimately I have a feeling the licensing will matter with each individual company who published this media, which would mean having to track down every one of these organizations to ask them this very question. Eh.

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    FN-GM's Avatar
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    Hi,

    Most of the posters here are from the UK. As you are in the USA law is different, so you will be limited as to how many people here can help.

    Are these all recordings from the TV? Or are they purchased?

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    mrbios's Avatar
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    Law aside, my personal experience of the whole thing is that the information on the videos is so old, and the quality when transferred to DVD is often so poor, that they've lost their value and are worth the money they cost to replace, be it with newer material, or with the same material on a new medium. (often the only stuff i find that's actually important are history based stuff)

    It's also a lot of your own time to get it done. We had a video to DVD converter and we had one member of staff bring a whole box of videos to us. First we had to trawl through and find what could be copied and what couldn't (be it legality wise, or because some of the copyrighted ones actually fail to convert for some reason...not that i tried of course )

    Everything has a value i suppose, the value of the time and effort involved wasn't worth the cost it would take to replace it though, but everyone's situation is different i suppose....

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    We had a project at work to do this. Nothing to do with IT really as we have a specialist film/AV department.

    I know they ended up taking someone on for 6 months to do it (later extended constant times until they had enough other duties to hire him anyway, but he easily spent about 6 months just converting tape and then at least another 10 'just converting tape, and...' and we got remarkably little useful material out of it for the time and money spent. Not for lack of trying on his part either.

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    Don't know about legalities in your country, but we had a unit setup in our staff work room that staff could use as they needed.

    As others have mentioned, the success rate is low. pre-recorded commercial tapes normally can't be copied as they mostly have copy protection. I believe it would be illegal to circumvent this in most western countries.

    Personally, I would always recommend trying to find a digital copy, as it takes far less time, and the quality will almost certainly be better.

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    SpuffMonkey's Avatar
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    Done some of this - just hooked the VHS up to a cheap TV card in an old PC and let it run through and record the tape then a quick edit to chop out the interesting bits and a convert to divx or whatever - it didn't take much time as most of the process can be left unattended - needed to fiddle around with the conversion settings to get a reasonable picture on the first run through

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    Possible? Yes, very easy in fact. Copy protection on VHS comes in two forms, weak sync pulses and Macrovision. The weak sync pulse method didn't last very long. What it did was cause the picture to roll as the recording device couldn't track the signal. There were two methods to get around this. Fiddle with the vertical hold on the TV on which you were watching the copy or use a simple circuit to process the video circuit and put on proper sync pulses.

    Macrovision is best explained in this quote from Wikipedia "Macrovision's legacy analog copy protection (ACP) works by implanting a series of excessive voltage pulses within the offscreen VBI lines of video. These pulses are included physically within pre-existing recordings on VHS and Betamax, and generated upon playback by a chip in DVD players and digital cable/satellite boxes. A DVD recorder receiving an analog signal featuring these pulses will detect them and display a message saying that the source is "copy-protected", followed by aborting the recording. VCRs, in turn, will react to these excessive voltage pulses by compensating with their automatic gain control circuitry, causing the recorded picture to wildly change brightness, rendering it unwatchable." It is still very easy to circumvent this. There are devices called video stabilizers that filter out the Macrovision spikes and thereby defeat the system. Mine cost £50 and when it detects Macrovision, an LED lights on the front panel. The instruction leaflet says "If the copy protection light is illuminated, under no circumstances press the record button on the receiving device." If you chose to ignore this instruction, you get a perfect recording.

    As to legality, it varies from country to country but United States fair use law, as interpreted in the decision over Betamax (Sony Corp. v. Universal City Studios), dictates that consumers are fully within their legal rights to copy videos they own. I believe the same is true in the UK and Australia; I can't find the citation at the mo.

    Posters above have suggested using more up to date media. This is all well and good if the VHS title has been released on DVD, and if it has, then you should purchase said DVD. However many educational VHS tapes were produced by companies which no longer exist and teachers have grown attached to the particular program. It is probably easier to get a one to one audience with His Holiness The Pope, than it is getting a teacher to change to a using a different program.

    We have an on going program to copy VHS to DVD. Firstly we check if a DVD of the program is available, and if it is, we inform the teacher and take no further action. It is up to them to purchase the DVD. If no DVD is available, we copy it. Almost all of the tapes have contained no copy protection. If the VHS tape dies and the teacher has not asked us to copy it, well that is their hard cheese and I guess they will be forced to change. We've had a few tapes which we couldn't play and the teachers were almost in tears when we told them.

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    I believe that US copyright laws are far more clearly defined than the UK and education has certain dispensations. I have a vhs deck and a Panasonic DVD recorder. Very easy to setup and control.

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    Our policy is the staff member chases for copyright clearance to format shift and they produce the email of clearance with the media.
    We have a DVD/VHS combi, sky box and PC connected via a Hauppage game capture device. This covers all angles of format shifting.

    Hope this helps.

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    we had a massive library of over the air recordings that we'd transferred to DVD using a VHS to DVD player it was only £100. But last year we took all those DVDs and put them on the network as WMV. They still look like ex-rental VHSs but are watchable.



    EDIT

    if it is a commercial VHS or DVD I say no.

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