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The Fascistic "Family Entertainment and Copyright Act"

by Anthony Kaufman
May 7, 2005 3:56 AM
3 Comments
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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?"

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3 Comments

  • Joel Odom | May 10, 2005 2:58 AMReply

    I don't think that the same reasoning applies to history as it does to artistic works. If Jesus is a historical figure, then the full history of His life and work should not be revised. If Jesus is a fable, then I don't see why there would be any problem with sharing His story without including all of the original details.

    Your argument seems centered around a film as an artistic work. It seems that you don't like the idea that someone would alter an artistic work. I would agree with you that it would be wrong to alter a work and present the work as if it were as the artist originally intended, but I don't see any problem with a casual movie watcher automatically skipping parts that they don't like so long as they understand that they may me missing components that the artist may originally have wanted. ClearPlay does not damage the business of the studio, and, as long as viewers understand what they're getting when they enable ClearPlay, the artist's reputation is not harmed.

    A producer may not like the fact that I close my eyes during the gross part, but they have no business stopping me from doing so.

  • Joel Odom | May 9, 2005 11:46 AMReply

    What's all this fuss about ClearPlay? It seems that freedom advocates should be *in favor* of this kind of movement: it gives freedom to enjoy content that I've paid for in the manner that I want. It's not as if it's allowing piracy, nor is it imposing "censorship" on the general public. Why should anybody care if I want to watch *Braveheart* without the booby scene? If I'm a prude, it's my business. I still paid for the authorized DVD. Why should anybody care if I want to skip a few seconds here or there or have the volume muted here or there?

  • Sujewa | May 9, 2005 6:32 AMReply

    Joel,
    All of the content is all of the message - filmmakers put stuff into movies, even stuff that may be objectionable for some, in order to create a certain experience for the viewer. What Clear Play does is similar to taking a book and deleting "offensive" paragraphs or words from it. Once altered in such a way the book is no longer what the author intended it to be. If certain parts are missing it can destroy the entire design & ultimate purpose, message of a story.
    For example - if someone asks me "who is this Jesus dude, what do you know about him?" and I tell that person that Jesus is believed by Christians to be the Son of God and that he lived in so and so time and taught such and such values - but then I omit the part where Jesus was said to be tortured & killed - because I am not a fan of violence - and I omit the part about the resurrection - because I think that part is too fantastic - would I be doing the right thing by the creators of the Jesus story/factual account - (whichever it may be) as most people in the world now know it ? If all you want to hear are familiar and comfortable things, it will be easy for people to keep you in the darkness. What ClearPlay does is a threat to art & the original intent of the artist. Of course film studios & filmmakers can decide not to participate in Clear Play's work by not selling/licensing their movies to Clear Play.

    Sujewa
    *******

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