Q. We are considering purchasing equipment that will convert our videos into DVDs. Our intentions are to reduce storage space as well as to preserve the productions for our future use. These are commercially-produced educational videos that we have purchased for our library, Are there copyright guidelines that cover this procedure?

A. Copyright doesn’t protect ideas, but does protect the format in which the ideas are expressed. One of the five rights granted an author is the right to have a derivative work created based upon their work. Changing formats is creating a derivative work in another form. When one purchases a video program, they actually do not own the program, but rather are granted the right to use that program.

With the preceding in mind, you can still write to the copyright holders of the programs you wish to convert to DVD requesting permission and establishing the rationale for converting formats. The worst scenario is that they will not grant permission. They may grant permission with or without a fee involved.

Some educational institutions, when purchasing video programs, have obtained transmission and duplication rights. If, in fact, you have videos in your collection that have such rights,you would need to verify if the license/contract permitting duplication includes conversion to another format, in this case, DVD.