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Don't throw away your VHS VCR just yet!

With the entire movie rental industry moving toward DVD's and home video productions on miniDV, miniDVD, flash memory card, and hard disk, the need for home VHS VCR's are diminishing. Many retailers have cleared out VHS tapes and quit stocking them. But I just found out today that throwing your VHS VCR away is not a good idea for home movie/video producers.

While reading the "Circular 45 Copyright Registration for Motion Pictures Including Video Recordings", I found out that the United States Copyright Office only accepts motion picture deposits in the following formats, "in descending order of preference":

  1. Film
    1. Preprint material with special arrangement
    2. 35mm positive prints
    3. 16mm positive prints
  2. Videotape formats
    1. 1-inch open reel tape
    2. Betacam SP
    3. D-2
    4. Betacam
    5. Videodisk
    6. 3/4-inch cassette
    7. 1/2-inch VHS cassette

Other than the 1/2" VHS cassette above, it would be difficult for the home consumer to produce any of the formats in the above list. With VHS VCR's going out the window left and right, the last option is also becoming increasingly difficult to produce. A quick search for "3/4-inch cassette" and "Videodisk" turned up no results at B&H, "The Professional Source" for photographic equipment. The most inexpensive Betacam recorder is the "Sony UVW-1400P Betacam SP PAL Player/Recorder VTR, Component, Composite, Y/C, RS-232C Remote" that cost $5999.99.

Although the U.S. Copyright Office mentioned that "an alternative deposit option is available for unpublished motion pictures", it is rather vague at whether this means it will accept alternative media formats or alternative submission procedure. You'll have to call its office to find out. Plus, it is only applicable to unpublished works. Its definition of publication is quite liberal and includes "when an offering is made to distribute copies to a group of persons (wholesalers, retailers, broadcasters, motion picture distributors, and the like) for purposes of further distribution or public performance."

I hope the U.S. Copyright Office will allow the deposit of more popular formats, such as miniDV, DVD's, and CD's, in the future. But for now, keep your VHS VCR if you already have one. And you might consider picking up another from the local electronic store if obtaining copyright for your video is important to you.

Chieh Cheng
Mon, 13 Feb 2006 18:37:28 -0800

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