How to tell if VHS tapes are copy protected

Updated February 21, 2017

Many types of media, such as music and movies, are often copy protected. If you have a copy-protected movie and you make an unauthorised duplicate recording of it for yourself or for someone else, you are violating the copy protection law and could be fined and/or jailed if you are caught. Most copy-protected new VHS movies contain anti-copy encoding within the tape that prevents people from making copies using their VCR. It is easy to tell if a VHS tape is copy protected.

Hook your VCR up to your TV using the connecting cable--typically an RCA cable with three attachments coloured red, white and yellow. Check the connections when you're done to ensure that they're firm.

Rewind the VHS tape all the way to the beginning. Put the VHS tape in the VCR, turn the TV to the appropriate channel to watch VHS tapes, and play the VHS tape from the beginning.

Watch the screen. If the VHS tape is copy protected, you will see a warning screen near the beginning of the tape indicating that the tape is copy protected and that anyone who makes unauthorised copies of the tape is in violation of the law.

If there is no warning at the beginning of the tape, and the movie begins to play, then the tape is not copy protected.


If the movie was made by a professional studio, there is a good chance that the movie is copy protected and cannot be copied.


Do not make unauthorised copies of copy protected movies. If you do, you are breaking the law.

Things You'll Need

  • VHS tape
  • VCR
  • Connecting cables
  • TV
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About the Author

Chris Newton has worked as a professional writer since 2001. He spent two years writing software specifications then spent three years as a technical writer for Microsoft before turning to copywriting for software and e-commerce companies. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and creative writing from the University of Colorado.