That wasn’t what I checked out!

Here’s a curious one. (A kid checks a Disney videocassette out from the library, and the cassette contains “hard-core pornorgraphy…)

Curious, actually, on two grounds:

  • The mother chose to call the media and police, not the library–and still hasn’t returned the tape. She talks about “documenting” that this actually happened. To what end?
  • The library person’s assertion that it’s difficult to sabotage a videocassette this way. Hmm. Tape over the open record-protection slot: two inches of adhesive tape and two seconds. Put the tape in a VCR. Record over what’s there. I believe most blank VHS tapes include an instruction sheet mentioning that you break the tab out of the record-protect slot to prevent accidental rerecording; it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how to enable recording on a prerecorded cassette. Any idiot could do this; some idiot apparently did.

That’s one rarely-mentioned advantage of DVDs over videocassettes. Unless someone went to the trouble of producing a phony DVD and managing to print a label side that was indistinguishable from the commercial release (possible, but a hassle), you can be reasonably certain that what you see is what you’ll get on the screen: There’s no way to “rerecord” a manufactured DVD. (I suspect that you could tell the difference between a faked DVD-R and a pressed DVD visually; I know that’s true for CD-Rs–but I haven’t used DVD-Rs, so can’t say for certain.)

This sort of thing doesn’t apparently happen very often, although it could with any videocassette rental outlet or library, because there aren’t that many sickos out there with this particular bent. Or maybe it does happen, but most people don’t make a big media/police deal out of it.

In any case, there’s not a thing the library could do to prevent it, other than getting rid of all its videocassettes…

[Thanks to Jim Romenesko’s Obscure Store and Reading Room.]

6 Responses to “That wasn’t what I checked out!”

  1. Michael May says:

    Hi Walt,

    While not preventative, the library could prosecute people caught defacing or destroying videos in this manner. For example, see this blurb from Library Journal (not sure if I need html to activate this link):

    But what about political or pornographic tracts, e.g. graphic anti-abortion pamphlets, intentionally placed in library books? That seems even harder to prevent or prosecute than destruction of videos.

    Michael May
    Appleton, WI

  2. walt says:

    That’s true–if the library can track them (which, for reasons of borrowing-history confidentiality, the library may not be able to do). But for that to happen, the mother would have to talk to the librarians, not grandstand (oops, sorry, opinion there) to the media.

  3. Ruth Ellen says:

    Um… it’s YOUR blog. You’re allowed to express an opinion on it. Don’t have to apologize.

  4. walt says:

    Ruth Ellen: I don’t use emoticons; that was a bit of irony. Maybe a sloppy bit…

  5. Michael May says:

    The woman’s odd behavior does lead one to suspect that it was she who dubbed the video, à la “finger in my chili.”

    The arrest in Decatur, IL apparently did occur after police used a court order to obtain circulation records. More info at

    Recommended Sites

    Crime in the Library at
    Strange, though many of the same stories appear at LISNews, Library Journal, and American Libraries.

    Marginalia and other crimes at
    Should they add streaming video of a tape dubbed with porno, as an example of what not to do?


    p.s. I wish I hadn’t included my email address to my previous comments. I’m going to get spammed, aren’t I?

  6. walt says:

    You’re required to provide your email address in the slot specified–but that’s never posted; I’m the only one who can see it. Will you get spammed because you put it on the open response? Probably, given harvesters. I’d only put my email address in the open if I was inviting private replies from other people who read this blog. (Not that my own email addresses are that hard to find, although I’ve tried to make them hard to harvest.)