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Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005

April 19, 2005

Watch for the "Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005" to be passed today by Congress. It's a big gift to the entertainment industry in terms of its prohibition of bootlegging copyrighted audio and video material, or recording a cinema-released film on videotape from the audience (which is the primary means by which films show up for sale on DVD just days after they've been released).

The part that the entertainment industry won't be so happy about is the language that makes it legal for distributors to sell "edited" versions of films, with the language, violence and sex edited out. (One might ask, "What's the point of watching the film?" but then, I suspect I'm not in the target demographic for this type of service.) Hollywood film makers have argued for years that it should be against the law for anyone to alter an artist's vision by cutting out what some subset of the populace does not want to see. (It's too bad this legislation hadn't been signed when the movie "Van Helsing" came out...it would be a service to humanity to edit out the entire contents of the movie between the opening and closing credits.)

But as is often the situation with such multi-point legislation, along with the good (for Hollywood, anyway) comes the bad (once again, for Hollywood). The tricky part, it's felt, is going to be in enforcing the law. Let's face it...the usual attendants at movie theaters (i.e., the people who are supposed to spot the pirates in mid-recording) are usually bored 17-year-olds who are concerned primarily with attaining the affections of the cute popcorn clerk or wondering if her shift will go by any faster if she commences building a paper clip chain behind the ticket desk. Additionally, a great deal of pirating and distribution of the resulting material happens off U.S. shores, and even Congress' long arms can't get to street vendors in Shanghai.

I don't really have an opinion either way about the ability for some distributors to whitewash objectionable-to-some-people material out of films. Certainly no filmmaker would have the right to complain if you merely skipped over the scenes with your remote. I'm wondering if the technology could be used to automatically edit spiders out of movies. Coming from the girl who can't even make it beyond the opening credits of "Arachnophobia," this would be handy.

TES




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