In "House OKs Family Copyright Bill," Wired News reports on the passage of the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act, which "Exempts from copyright and trademark infringement, under certain circumstances: (1) making limited portions of the audio or video content of a motion picture for private home viewing imperceptible; or (2) the creation of technology that enables such editing."
Just image what Kill Bill looks like on ClearPlay. Not even time to eat your popcorn. If protecting the artistic integrity of movies doesn’t matter to you, I suppose this law is harmless enough, but is it the infamous "slippery slope"? First families in private showing in homes, then schools in public showings, then who knows? Or, first DVDs, then other digital media? Or, first sex and violence, then other potentially objectionable material? Maybe e-textbooks with that pesky evolution concept neatly excised on demand by concerned parents or schools. Or, maybe that’s creationism instead. After all, what is objectionable is in the eye of the beholder.
3 thoughts on “Family Entertainment and Copyright Act”
I have to admit that I don’t see the problem with this law–except that, in my opinion, it should not be needed. The law requires that the ClearPlay-equivalent put up a screen indicating that the movie has been edited; it forbids making a permanent copy of the filtered version; and ClearPlay would only be activated by user choice.
I don’t have any problem with parents installing censorware on the PCs they and their kids use either–as long as it’s their choice.
It’s not an issue of artistic integrity, in my opinion: It’s an issue of a consumer being allowed to use a purchased (or rented or borrowed) product in the manner the consumer sees fit. An author can’t prevent you from skipping “nasty” chapters in a book; RIAA can’t prevent you from skipping “nasty” songs on a CD–and neither of them can prevent you from having someone tell you which parts are nasty and should be avoided. Why should MPAA be able to tell you that you can’t skip the nasty parts?
[Note that movie studios regularly produced their own chopped-up versions for TV, for airplanes, and rumor has it for certain sales and rental outlets. Where’s artistic integrity then?]
And, paranoid as I am, I don’t see a slippery slope here. The slippery slope I see is the suggestion that the creator or copyright holder should be able to control how you use a legally-acquired copy. (Yes, I’ve already written the essay for the next C&I.)
As usual, Walt provides a cogent analysis. And I’m not rabid about this law, but I do have concerns about it as a precedent. So my take on it tends to be future oriented.
"An author can’t prevent you from skipping ‘nasty’ chapters in a book; RIAA can’t prevent you from skipping ‘nasty’ songs on a CD-and neither of them can prevent you from having someone tell you which parts are nasty and should be avoided."
True, but digital technologies may make skipping so seamless that what is skipped may appear to have never been there in the first place. I’m not saying that existing technology for DVDs does this, but the time could come when the original work could, in essence, disappear at the will of third-party digital censors. If the target audience plays no active part in the excision, it’s different than if the target audience is making the decision to do the skipping (i.e., I flip past these pages). They don’t know what they are missing; it’s as if it never was there. But, you say, they would know because it is obvious that something is missing. Yes, today it’s obvious, but tomorrow I’m not so sure. Digital wizardry might be able to glue the work back together far more effectively than it can be put back together today.
"[Note that movie studios regularly produced their own chopped-up versions for TV, for airplanes, and rumor has it for certain sales and rental outlets. Where’s artistic integrity then?]"
Hey, zippo integrity, but it is the intellectual property rights holder doing the chopping, and, if the creators are not the IP holders and they have signed contracts that allow it to be done, I might not like it, but so be it. The law before us says that the creator has no say in the matter, not even to waive his rights. That’s different.
"And, paranoid as I am, I don’t see a slippery slope here. The slippery slope I see is the suggestion that the creator or copyright holder should be able to control how you use a legally-acquired copy."
Well, here’s the crux. If it’s me (the user) saying "give me a tool that makes it effortless to skip content I don’t like," I buy Walt’s page skipping analogy. I may not know what I’m missing, but I know I’m missing something. What I object to is doing the skipping for other people, and those others potentially not knowing what they are missing. I’m not going to fall on my sword about parents being able to censor what their kids see, but I worry that what parents can do today, those that would like to be society’s parents can do tomorrow. What digital technology can do for individuals, it can do for organizations. Picking on schools again, nothing stops schools from using such devices but the law and their governing bodies. Would it be a problem if the law permitted it? This law is a step in that direction. And, as I said, DVDs today, other digital content tomorrow. (Personally, I think that Hamlet would be a much nicer play for the kids without all that gore and the nasty ghost.)
If I encrypt a file with a simple alogorithm such as a->b, b->c, etc.
and then someone “reverse engineers” it, are they now in violation of the digital copyright act?
Recently there has been some discussion of Nikon cameras storing their digital camera images in a proprietary format and thus it would be illegal for software developers to develop programs to read the files. Nikon has defused the issue temporarily by stating that they offer licenses to recognized software developers. But it won’t be too long until some media provider seeks to control distribution of their content by this technique rather than standard copyright protection.
Comments are closed.