About the Project


Between the early 1980s and early 2000s, academic libraries around the world built collections of VHS titles with an emphasis on supporting classroom teaching.

The VHS era, eclipsed by the robust and rapid adoption of the DVD format in the early 2000s, is now over. Yet the format isn’t officially considered obsolete and possibly won’t be until the last consumer-grade DVD/VCR combo unit rolls off the production line. In the meantime, a crisis is welling for libraries. Of the hundreds of thousands of VHS recordings once in commercial release, a substantial amount have never been released on DVD or in streaming format. To compound matters, industry experts estimate that the various forces converging against the VHS format (age of tapes, irreparable and irreplaceable equipment, retirement of VHS technicians) will make the format inaccessible by 2027 (Casey, 2015).

Purpose of the database

Under Section 108 of US Copyright law (U.S. Copyright Office, 2014), non-profit libraries and archives have an available remedy to the problem. This section of the law allows for duplication of content that is lost damaged, stolen, deteriorating, or in an obsolete format.

While VHS video does not quite meet the requirement of obsolescence as defined in the law, recent research conducted by the Mellon Foundation funded Video at Risk Project (New York University, 2012) demonstrates that analog magnetic VHS tape by its very existence is a deteriorating format (Besser, H. et al., 2012 and Forsberg and Piil, 2013).

A library cannot simply begin digitizing all of their VHS tapes though. Section 108 requires that, prior to duplication, a reasonable search be conducted to determine that an unused copy of the title is not available at a fair price, and evidence of that search should be kept.

This database captures the search efforts for current distribution of VHS video titles eligible for duplication under Section 108 of U.S. Copyright law.

Among the most common searches conducted:

  • the original distributor’s sales catalog / web site
  • contacting the original distributor for information on availability and/or transfer of content to another distributor
  • searching Amazon.com for the title
  • searching WorldCat database of library holdings for alternate imprints of title

Here is a useful form for making a hard-copy log of the search efforts for titles in a given collection:
VHS distribution/copyright search log

Note: The database is limited to only VHS titles for which no currently-distributed DVD or streaming video could be located by the identified library on a given date. The database is intended as a headstart and encouragement for all libraries with VHS collections to undertake preservation efforts. While the contributors have undertaken careful review of each entry, they bear no legal responsibility for the preservation decisions of other institutions.


Besser, H., Brown, M.A., Clarida, R., Forsberg, W., Righter. M., & Stoller, M. (2012). Video at risk: Strategies for preserving commercial video collections in libraries. Section 108 Guidelines. Retrieved from http://www.nyu.edu/tisch/preservation/research/video-risk/VideoAtRisk_SE... (pdf)

Casey, M. (2015). Why media preservation can’t wait: The gathering storm. IASA Journal, 44, 14-22. Retrieved from http://www.avpreserve.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/casey_iasa_journal_... (pdf)

Forsberg, W. & Piil, E. (2014). Tune in, turn on, drop out. In S. Hastings (Ed.) Annual Review of Cultural Heritage Informatics (pp.213-242). Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

New York University. (2012, September 25) Video at Risk: Strategies for preserving commercial video collections in research libraries. Retrieved from http://www.nyu.edu/tisch/preservation/research/video-risk/

U.S. Copyright Office (2014, July 23). Copyright law of the United States of America and related laws contained in Title 17 of the United States Code. Retrieved from http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#108

Project Managers

Photo of deg farrelly

deg farrelly has worked with academic media collections for 40 years. As the media librarian for Arizona State University his primary responsibilities are selection and management of quality media content to support teaching and research across the university’s four campuses and administration of the interface for locally hosting video.

He is the author of “Streaming Video” in the book Rethinking Collection Development and Management, and co-investigator with Jane Hutchison in 2013 and 2015 national surveys of academic library streaming video.

deg presents frequently on matters of academic media at national conferences, including the National Media Market, the Charleston Conference, Electronic Resources & Libraries, CCUMC, and the American Library Association, and highly attended webinars for Library Journal. He has played instrumental roles in the development of subscription, PDA, and EBA streaming video acquisition models, and serves as a consultant for several video distributors and publishers.

Photo of Jane Hutchison Surdi

Jane Hutchison Surdi was the Associate Director of Instruction & Research Technology at William Paterson University in Wayne, NJ. Now retired, she was actively involved in classroom technology and the evaluation, selection and management of the media collection at WPU for over 33 years. She was on the team that obtained an IMLS Grant to develop a streaming portal for the state of New Jersey. As Chairwoman of the Digital Media Committee for the NJ Statewide Library Consortium, VALE, Jane helped shape the licensing and streaming of commercial videos for NJ’s portal, NJVID (NJVID.net). Jane is past president of CCUMC (Consortium of College & University Media Centers) and served as the Chair of the Government Regulations and Public Policy Committee for CCUMC.

She has frequently presented on matters of copyright and academic media at national conferences, including the National Media Market, the Charleston Conference, ALA, and the Consortium of College & University Media Centers (CCUMC) as well as statewide conferences and workshops.

Photo of Chris Lewis

Chris Lewis has been the Media Librarian at American University (AU) in Washington, DC since 1992, following stints as a Media Specialist at Indiana University, video artist/producer, and advertising copywriter. His responsibilities include collection development and management of the visual media collections as well as research support and outreach to students and faculty. He is also coordinator for the AU institutional repository and the library liaison for copyright matters related to scholarship. Chris and the AU Media Services staff were fervid early adopters of streaming video and more recently have been evangelizing the need for libraries to undertake professional-quality preservation of their moldering videotape collections.