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February 1994


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 27 Feb 1994 14:30:03 -0500
text/plain (65 lines)
I'll offer a few comments in answer to your question re taping off of TV--
not from the perspective of the legally trained, but of an informed amateur
who happens to have to deal with these issues in the practical context of
a library media center.
There are a set of "off-air taping" guidelines that were formulated by
congressional committee in the wake of the Copyright Act of 1976, which
sanction taping from broadcast transmission (or its cable equivalent)
stations for a temporary period. The taping is supposed to be used for
instruction for 10 days aftward, with a period for evaluationa and review
extending to 45 days (not counting non-instruction days--e.g., weekends
and holidays). After that, you erase or license the copy (or, if a commer-
cial version becomes available, buy that). While the guidelines seem
generally oriented toward educational service centers in some of its
specific provisions, they don't rule out faculty taping themselves rather
than having a media center or its equivalent do that. And the wording
of the guidelines seems to prohibit taping "cable only" station programming
--whether it's a premium one like HBO, or a basic package one like A & E.
Some may differ on whether extending the guidelines to such stations is
still within their spirit; I'm inclined not to extend them that far. --And
remember, too, these are indeed guidelines, not law: some big film/video
distributors have not given their blessing to this arrangement, though I've
never heard of anyone getting into trouble over following the off-air
taping guidelines.
Another possibility, relating to taping news programming, is provided in
the section of the Copyright Law (sorry, I don't have the number at hand at
the moment) dealing with libraries and archives. "Audiovisual news programs"
can be taped by such service centers if these are archived under certain
provisions made clear in this section (proper copyright notice labeling,
public accessibility, etc.). If I remember correctly, a large part of the
impetus for this section of the law resulted from the valuable collection
of network news programming that was being built by Vanderbilt University.
"Audiovisual news program" does have to be interpreted rather conservatively,
though. Occasional network specials or regular news-like programs (e.g.,
"60 Minutes") don't really qualify; neither does MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour--
since that's more commentary than news reporting (besides which, they sell
cassette copies of their programs). The further you get away from a straight
reporting-events-as-they-happen format, the less likely this section of the
law can be applied. In general, I take it to refer only to regular news
broadcasts--though I think these could extend to cable news transmissions,
and also to local station broadcasts.
BTW, all C-Span programming has a special use sanction for educators. You can
tape this programming and use it in educational activities--for the life of
your recording. Also, I have not found any restrictions in the info coming
from C-Span that suggests you are prohibited from editing the programming
they transmit (you aren't supposed to do that under the off-air guidelines
mentioned above with *that* sort of programming). C-Span makes more infor-
mation available under their "C-Span in the Classroom" service, which yo
can learn about by calling them.
Now I know that "fair use" provisions of the law--for teaching, scholarship,
reporting and commentary--may have some application, but I'm more unsure of
that when the source being used comes from off air or off cable taping. My
hunch would be that the guidelines would be likely to come into play first
and override the fair use case, in most instances... but I'd better leave
that issue up to others to comment on more fully, as well as adding to/
modifying what I've said here.
Jeff Clark
James Madison University