By Anthony Kaufman | ReelPolitik May 7, 2005 at 3:56AM
I'm a little late in coming to the "Family Entertainment and Copyright Act" -- or what I like to call the "Complete Ignorance of Movie Art Act" -- which both houses of Congress passed (without a record of votes) and Bush signed into law two weeks ago. I'm a little dumbfounded how little the New York presses covered the law and those that did often neglected to mention the bill's most egregious parts.
Most papers focused on the film's anti-piracy measures: three-year prison terms for those distributing pirated films for profit or caught recording films off of movie theater screens. It also allows movie theaters to detain suspects for a reasonable period of time before FEDs arrive to take them away.
But then part II of the bill -- added later much to the chagrin of filmmakers and presumably the "Family" aspect of the law -- is the "EXEMPTION FROM INFRINGEMENT FOR SKIPPING AUDIO AND VIDEO CONTENT IN MOTION PICTURES." This section gives full reign to censoring companies like ClearPlay to allow consumers to gut movies of whatever content they feel is offensive. The much-cited example: the Clearplayed "Schindler's List" is stripped of naked Holocaust victims.
It's a blow to the Directors Guild of America, filmmakers everywhere and anyone who cares about movies. In a recent AMC report "Bleep! Censoring Hollywood," Steven Soderbergh decried the legislation: "You've got a movie that's been altered by a third party without the consent of the copyright holder or the creative author of the work."
And I just love how the bill touts itself as anti-piracy legislation and then allows for what is effectively pirated content: taking movies and then turning them into new products. Isn't this a contradiction? As DGA president Michael Apted told Variety earlier in the year: it's now "perfectly OK for other people to make 15,000 versions of 'Titanic.'"
It sounds a lot like the Bush Administration's "environmental policy": which just recently opened one-third of the national's forest land to new road construction and other commercial uses.
For those following the continuing whirligig of censorship and digital rights issues in the U.S. of A., there was, however, some good news reported on Friday: a federal appeals court ruled against a regulation that would have required special technology in new computers and televisions "that would enable them to restrict redistribution and reuse of the programs," according to The New York Times. The paper quoted Judge Harry T. Edwards, when pressing government lawyers to justify their new technology standards, "You've gone too far," he said. "Are washing machines next?"