VHS to DVD – Are You Breaking the Law?
Operating a VHS to DVD service can be very rewarding. It can give one the opportunity to help friends and family improve their home movie collections by upgrading them to a more stable media. There are times, however, when a customer will ask to have a copyrighted movie transferred from VHS to DVD. There are certain steps that must be taken when one does this in order to avoid breaking the law while operating a VHS to DVD service.
If the person presents an original, purchased movie on VHS, that person has a legal right to make one copy and store the original and archive. The copy made must be for that individual’s personal use and may not be sold, traded, or even given away. Doing any of these things makes that individual guilty of copyright infringement, a crime that carries some very stiff penalties if one is caught.
The dilemma that develops for someone operating a VHS to DVD service is that multiple clients may produce their own original copies on VHS of the same movie. The question becomes, “How does one avoid being guilty of copyright infringement while making multiple copies of the same movie?”
The answer in this case becomes a bit tricky. In order to stay completely legal, one would have to make a direct copy from each original. Unfortunately, there is likely to be a difference in the quality of image available from different originals do to differences in age and storage methods. There will be a great temptation to choose the best of the originals and make all copies from it. However, in order to remain completely innocent of any wrongdoing and to avoid the appearance of wrongdoing, this temptation must not be succumbed to.
Additionally, there may be a tendency to want to edit the video and/or audio to produce a better quality before burning to DVD. This practice is perfectly acceptable with home movies that were originally recorded by the owner. However, making any changes during the copying process could, and probably would, be viewed as copyright infringement and result in fines and or jail time.
The best way to handle the situation of being presented with multiple copies of a copyrighted material for VHS to DVD conversion is to have a VCR to DVD-R setup that makes the copy directly without any intermediary devices. This is the best setup to avoid breaking the law while operating a VHS to DVD Service.