Digital Video Recorders and School Libraries

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  • My school is looking at creating our own Digital Video Recorder (think TiVo) with an Apple G4 and and a couple TV tuner cards. My original idea was to create a system that would just allow us to easily place multiple programs on a DVD disc with the convience of chapters where each program starts. This would make locating and using requested programs easier for the teaching staff. Then when the program expired either erasing the program if on a DVD-RW or destroy the DVD-R disc.

    My Districts Technology Technician is interested in creating a system that would allow "archieve" the recorded program to a computer hard drive and then enable the teachers to access and preview the recorded programs from the teachers desktop computer. All programs would be deleted or destroyed after the off-air rights expired.

    I know that you can't convert programs that are currently on either VHS or DVD into a digital format without obtaining rights. However, what about off air educational television programs that are recorded digitally with a digital recording device? Example A&E Classroom shows commercial free programming that schools can use for two years after the original recording but then erased. Could these programs be recorded via a DVR to be used by classroom teachers either via a networked hard drive or DVD-R/RW disc?

    Also what about having the programs located both on the networked hard drive and burning them onto a DVD-R/RW? The networked hard drive would make the videos readily available to the teacher who requested the program for previewing in their classroom and the DVD-R/RW format would be easier to show in class or take home to preview.
  • I'm going to jump in here and post some comments, even though I don't know the definitive answer to your question. If you look at the guidelines for off-air recording of broadcast programming, they are quite restrictive (the PDF can be found here on the last page: ). 1. You can only retain a copy for 45 days (after this, authorization must be granted by the copyright holder for the program's use). 2. You can only use the recording once, maybe twice, in the classroom, and then it's only permissable within 10 consecutive days after that. 3. Recordings may only be made at the request of an individual teacher, not recorded in anticipation of requests. The good news is that a limited number of copies may be made to meet the needs of teachers under the guidelines. I don't know how strictly in real life the requirement for the teacher to pro-actively request the program is enforced, or whether the authorities care about that. It seems like you're creating a temporary library out of these recordings, and that is not permitted. Another problem is repeated (and possibly multiple) classroom use of the program before you have authorization. It sounds like the A&E Classroom program gives authorization for schools to use (I am not familiar with it). Even though I don't feel comfortable giving you an answer, I think you have to know the guidelines and exceptions to make your decision. Regarding specifically making digital copies: I do not know the laws regarding creating digital copies from analog broadcasts, so there might be something there that prevents you from implementing your idea. I know there was legislation introduced late last year about something called the "analog hole" (see: ). Apparently, there is some problem with recording analog signals onto digital devices, because it bypasses (or may bypass) technological security measures. Anyway, hopefully this rambling answer has at least given you somewhere to start, and perhaps others on the board will chime in. JMiller
  • First I'll make it clear- this is my opinion, and not necessarily anything reflecting any beliefs at ALA.

    As far as the "analog hole," thankfully that legislation hasn't passed. The whole "analog hole" argument is questionable, and the legislation pretty much tries to make the worst aspects of DRM applicable to just about everything digital. Ironically, the "analog hole" was the only savior of fair use from the DMCA, and a poorer one than should exist. That legislation would kill that.

    I tend to agree with EFF's take on the subject: That particular legislation would make many instances of fair use, including format shifting, illegal.
    Interestingly, the MPAA and other content industries are at odds about this issue.

    Ed Felten has a very good post about some of the technology issues, with good comments, at
  • I agree with that (JMiller's) interpretation also, although I'll try to look into it more. While you can covert VHS or DVD to digital formats without obtaining rights as an individual, the rules are different for institutions. As an institution, to take advantage of institutional exemptions for such use you need to meet the criteria for those exemptions, rely on fair use, or rely on the license.

    In this case, you probably can't take advantage of institutional exemptions. The TEACH Act covers digital use of media for educators. It's requirements aren't met in this situation already, since you're doing asyncronous work.

    For libraries and archives, the materials needs to be lost, deteriorating, stolen, or obsolete, and restricted to the physical institution. You probably can't use this exemption either.

    You will need to evaluate your use based on fair use. I will note that the guidelines for off-air use are not law, although you may indeed be safer following those guidelines. The guidelines themselves do not address digital copies at this time, but they also don't cover multiple copies for the same teacher (like you're talking about in this case with the networked version and the DVD-R/RW). As far as the license, it totally depends on what the license says... any school librarians here have experience with this situation? If the license allows this type of use and doesn't differentiate between analog and digital copies, I'd go ahead with it.
  • I think that your described use is a fair use.

    You can copy a program for curriculum purposes. If under a license agreement (like A&E educational) then you must abide by those rules. If you are copying something off of broadcast TV, I would tend to follow the off-air guidelines. I do not believe it makes a difference what method is used to capture a public performance and show it in the classroom.

    After the 45 day allotment, if you plan on using the video in the future, then buy it or call the producer and ask if you can retain your copy for a fee.

    I think it is also fine to make that second copy of the program for quick desktop viewing for the teacher if access is password protected and teachers are alerted to the copyright law with some kind of opening screen message.
    "These programs are protected by copyright. Further reproduction and distribution of this content is an infringement of the copyright law." Something like that.

    Of course, it's absolutely true that you cannot create your own library from these works because clearly there is a negative market effect.
  • A teacher tapes a tv show and wants to put it on reserve everytime she teaches a certain class. Is this a copyright violation? I thought so but went to a workshop on copyright and now question whether it is or not.
  • As Carrie Russell states in her answer "If you are copying something off of broadcast TV, I would tend to follow the off-air guidelines. I do not believe it makes a difference what method is used to capture a public performance and show it in the classroom.

    After the 45 day allotment, if you plan on using the video in the future, then buy it or call the producer and ask if you can retain your copy for a fee" is the guideline that is most often followed for off-air taping. If the show is vital to the class then someone look to obtain permission for repeated use or purchase a commercial copy.

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