RE: why won't this video play?

Jeffrey Clark (
Fri, 21 Jun 2002 13:43:53 -0700 (PDT)

I have to agree with Gary on this issue of making copies of foreign
standard videos in NTSC standard--even for personal use. While I have a
philosopical resistance (no matter how the case law and experts have played
it out over the years) to calling a straight copy of an original, due to
techical differences in the TV standards being accomodated, a "derivative
work"... I still think it's inadvisable to consider you have a
matter-of-course right to make such copies on grounds I've mentioned in the

1. There are available on the market multistandard VCRs that will play back
the foreign tape "as is"--the only physical thing subject to a "first sale"
doctrine that benefits you (if you just consider U.S. copyright law alone).
That an individual buys such a tape, even inadvertently, and doesn't own
such a VCR (at this point), is their own problem, alas. Live and learn. Buy
the VCR or sell the tape to someone who has it.

2. The foreign standard program title may also have a legit U.S.
distributor offering NTSC. That you bought it once, in the wrong form,
before knowing that, doesn't suggest you should be free to avoid the
nuisance and expense of buying it a second time. Once again, live and
learn, etc.

3. If there's no separate distributor serving the U.S. or other markets
outside of the origin country, this situation may be due to one or both of
two things:
(a) No perceived market for the title, so it wasn't licensed.
(b) No license granted to distribute the title in such a way from the
copyright holder--on purpose. Perhaps there are plans to do so in the
future... if it looks like there's a another substantial market over time,
or the tangle of subrights from squabbling contributors to the work can be
ironed out, or....
If (a) applies, you're basically in the situation of #1 above. Buy it, be
glad you got it if it's unique, and use it as is. Get that VCR that'll play
it if it's really important to you. Maybe you're obtaining the title was
unintentional but the owner is grateful for the extra sale anyway. In any
event, the unauthorized distribution problem--if it really is one--isn't
If (b) applies, the situation has another wrinkle to it. Technically,
copies of the title should not be sold to people or organizations outside
of the licensed region--dictated by design, not market miscalculation. Yes,
it happens, and is overlooked to some extent--perhaps because such sales
are not a major consideration and, if really tangled up with (a) as the
reason the licensing authority wasn't provided, hey, once again it's extra
income when out-of-country strangers buy copies too. But bottomline it's
the right of the copyright holder to cut a license any way they want (or
are obliged to: that squabbling...). Technically and legally sales outside
the licensed region are a violation of their rights. If conversion copies
of those sales are then made--just to accomodate inconvenient differences
in technical standards for viewing--that's only adding insult to injury.
Especially since there's now more opportunity for copies of the NTSC copy
to proliferate on shores where the title isn't supposed to be available in
the first place.

I know all this must sound tiresome in our age of worldwide problemfree
downloads, but there it is. Actually, I imagine our distributors on-list
may even be able to amplify and qualify my limited understanding of markets
and licenses, too. Result? It can only get more tiresome.... ;)


--On Friday, June 21, 2002 11:54 AM -0700 Gary Handman
<> wrote:

> Making one copy is illegal. period.
> gh
> At 11:34 AM 6/21/2002 -0700, you wrote:
>> I don't think that making one copy is illegal, as long as the original is
>> destroyed (i.e. PAL formatted tape is destroyed once VHS is made.) This
>> is something that discouraged students from having tapes transferred to
>> VHS at the last library where I worked--often they had tapes mailed to
>> them from home, but couldn't view them on American machines; however,
>> they wanted to keep the PAL tape to use when they returned home.
>> If this is an incorrect interpretation, I'm sure someone here will let me
>> know : )
>> Julia Woodward
>> Access Librarian
>> Anne Arundel Community College
>> 101 College Parkway
>> Arnold, MD 21012
>> (410) 777-2631
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Gary Handman []
>> Sent: Friday, June 21, 2002 2:27 PM
>> To: Multiple recipients of list
>> Subject: Re: why won't this video play?
>> Woaaah!
>> If the item is protected under the Bern Convention on copyright (and I'm
>> sure it is), copying from one format to another
>> is most likely illegal--i.e. as in the US, copying = derivative work =
>> one of the exclusive rights of the copyright holder.
>> gary
>> At 11:07 AM 6/21/2002 -0700, you wrote:
>> > At 10:29 AM -0700 6/21/02, Renee Zurn wrote:
>> > > The video is ..., labeled VHS PAL ...
>> >
>> > PAL (European) format VHS tapes will not play on NTSC (regular US)
>> > players.
>> >
>> > She may be able to have a copy made to NTSC for a fee in your area.
>> >
>> > Here at the Learning Studio we have a deck that plays both formats and
>> > staff occasionally bring in their PAL tapes to make a NTSC copy they
>> > can play.
>> >
>> >
>> > Gilles Poitras
>> > Learning Studio, Exploratorium Museum
>> >
>> Gary Handman
>> Director
>> Media Resources Center
>> Moffitt Library
>> UC Berkeley
> Gary Handman
> Director
> Media Resources Center
> Moffitt Library
> UC Berkeley

Jeff Clark
Media Resources (MSC 1701)
James Madison University
540-568-6770 (voice)
540-568-3405 (fax)