Ask LH: Is It Legal To Transfer VHS Tapes To DVD?

Hey Lifehacker, My hobby is collecting old VHS tapes bought from op shops, but I don’t want to ruin the tapes by watching them repeatedly. Is it legal to transfer the tapes to DVD? Similarly, is it legal to transfer cassettes onto CD? The answers online seem to conflict wildly. Thanks, Tape Fiend

Picture: makelessnoise

Dear Tape Fiend,

In Australia, the answers are actually fairly clear, as we’ve noted before. Any VHS tapes or cassettes (including those purchased at op shops) can legally be “format shifted”, so you can transfer them to DVD or convert them into MP4 files with impunity.

The one arguable exception is if you pick up a VHS tape which has built-in copy protection, designed to stop people making tape-to-tape copies, something which flourished briefly in the early-to-mid 1990s. You’re not allowed to circumvent copy protection, so those tapes are, in theory, illegal to convert. That’s unlikely to affect most of your activity, however. Happy backups! For more detail, check out our full guide on the topic.


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