Editing Tool--or Aid to Piracy? : Hollywood Outraged by Dual Video Recorder

Times Staff Writer

A Japanese company has begun marketing abroad a videocassette recorder that allows owners to make copies of videotapes, but Hollywood movie producers and the videocassette recording industry are calling the new machine "an outrage."

The marketer says the machine will enable owners of home video cameras to edit their own home movies. Hollywood regards it as a new way to make pirated tapes of commercial movies.

The controversial new recorder is being marketed in the Middle East by Sharp Corp. of Osaka as the world's first "double cassette" recorder.

Sharp says in a brochure that it created "this revolutionary product in response to the spreading popularity of video, which is becoming a central element of home entertainment."

The dual cassette recorder sells for less than $1,000, but "Sharp has no plans to market it in the United States," said Daniel Infanti, manager of corporate communications and marketing for Sharp Electronics Corp., the U.S. subsidiary.

Infanti said the primary use for the new dual cassette recorder is to edit recorded tapes. "This was not designed or promoted to be a pirate machine or a tape duplicator," he said. "If someone wants to pirate tapes, you can do it without this machine."

At present, a consumer who wants to copy a videotape must use two machines. But the new Sharp recorder has slots for two tape cassettes, and the company says it produces higher-quality copies than two machines wired together.

With the new machine, users can also watch a recorded tape on one cassette while taping a television show on the other.

The dual cassette recorder uses a broadcast standard incompatible with the one used in the United States, but industry experts say that could be changed without difficulty.

Movie and video industry officials say that allowing the new recorder into the United States would undermine the nation's 14,000 video rental stores and limit the ability of Hollywood to realize profits from prerecorded tapes.

Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, which represents the country's major movie studios, called the new Sharp recorder "a blatant call for thievery. It's another sword thrust right in our belly.

"This would only reinforce the notice that the public believes it is socially and politically acceptable to copy a movie without permission," he said.

"Sharp has introduced these machines in the Middle East because there are no copyright laws (there)," Valenti added.

Michael Olivieri, vice president of marketing and sales for Vestron Video of Stamford, Conn., the largest independent video distributor, said the new recorder "certainly would not add to the health of the industry."

"I think it would really hurt the development of new programming because it would make piracy rampant," added Stuart Karl, head of Karl Video Corp. in Newport Beach, an independent video producer whose best-selling videotapes include "Jane Fonda's Workout."

Recalling the movie industry's vigorous campaign against the videocassette recorders now available in the United States, one top video industry official said of Sharp's decision to keep its dual cassette recorder out of this country: "I don't think they want to raise the wrath of trade sanctions, potential legislation or legal remedies."

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