Simply put it is just illegal to make a digital copy of a copyrighted video. Indeed, one can only make a legal copy of a video under strict, particular conditions. One can only make a copy of a video IF AND ONLY IF one has the copyright to that video or the permission of the one who actually does hold the copyright. This means that RITE is not legally able to make wholesale copies of videos (transfer from VHS to DVD for example) just because these VHS titles will soon be an obsolete medium.
For more information about Fair Use and to help you determine if your intended use falls under this category, see the Fair Use Checklist. You can also read more about Fair Use in this document from SUNY.
Possession of a film or video does not confer the right to show the work. The copyright owner specifies, at the time of purchase or rental, the circumstances in which a film or video may be "performed." For example, videocassettes from a video rental outlet usually bear a label that specifies "Home Use Only." However, whatever their labeling or licensing, use of these media is permitted in an educational institution so long as certain conditions are met.
Section 110 (1) of the Copyright Act of 1976 specifies that the following is permitted:
Performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to- face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, unless, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, the performance, or the display of individual images is given by means of a copy that was not lawfully made ... and that the person responsible for the performance knew or had reason to believe was not lawfully made.
Additional text of the Copyright Act and portions of the House Report (94-1476) combine to provide the following, more detailed list of conditions:
Use Outside the Classroom
Besides use in classrooms, videocassettes and videodiscs that are owned by the College may ordinarily be viewed by students, faculty or staff at workstations, or at viewing stations located on the first floor. These videos may also be checked out for use outside of the library by Buffalo State College students, faculty and staff only.
Copying Videotapes / Off-Air Recording of Broadcasts, Including Satellite TV
Copying videotapes without the copyright owner's permission is illegal. An exception is made for libraries to replace a work that is lost or damaged if another copy cannot be obtained at a fair price [Section 108 of the Copyright Act of 1976].
Licenses may be obtained for copying and off-air recording. Absent a formal agreement, "Guidelines for Off-the-Air Recording of Broadcast Programming for Educational Purposes," an official part of the Copyright Act's legislative history, applies to most off-air recording:
May I purchase or rent a film from the local video store and use it in my class?
Tapes from a video store are labeled "Home Use Only," indicating a licensing agreement with the copyright holder. Nevertheless, use of such tapes is considered "fair use" in a face-to-face teaching situation. Tapes marked "Home Use Only" may also be placed on reserve in the library if they are used strictly for instructional purposes and not entertainment.
Is it permissible to make a copy of a rental video in order to use it again, later?
No. That would infringe on the rights licensed to the rental agency. (Absent reasonable return for service, rental agencies cannot survive.)
Can an auditorium or other large space be used to show a video labeled "Home Use Only" to a class?
Yes, so long as the performance is not open to the public and is for an instructional purpose within the structure of the course. Use for entertainment is prohibited.
Can a college-owned video be copied for Reserves?
Not unless permission for the copying has been obtained from the copyright owner.
May a club or other group show a video obtained from a local video store?
No. However, many film/video libraries and distributors offer the required "public performance rights" that are included in a higher rental fee.
What if a student rents a video from a video store and views it with a few friends in her dormitory living room?
Experts disagree! But since access to dormitories is limited to acquaintances of students, this would seem to be comparable to "home use."
Can a videotape be made of a film that is out of print and deteriorating rapidly?
Although the film is out of print, permission of the copyright owner is nonetheless required.
Through the Western New York Library Resources Council, we were able to Ask-a-Lawyer about some of the rights and laws involved with transferring a VHS tape to a digital medium.
Short answer: " ... when it comes to creating a new format of a work, written permission from the copyright owner is always best."
Long answer: Check out WNYLRC's Ask-a-Librarian FAQs and see the Topic: Reformatting VHS entry.