US “Family Movie Act” Will Approve Parental Content Filtering

The Motion Picture Association of America is unhappy about HR4586, the “Family Movie Act”. The act will allow companies like Clearplay to manufacture software for filtering content from DVDs, without film studios suing over their product being tampered with.

As always, censorship is an emotive issue: parents should have the right to protect their children from inappropriate material… but then perhaps they should be more selective about what finds its way into the DVD player when their kids are parked in front of it?

“The technology my legislation allows does not alter any movie’s violence, sex and profanity,” said Lamar Smith, the Republican sponsoring the bill through Senate. “But it does allow parents to skip over the movie’s violence, sex and profanity. If they choose to designate a technology company to help them accomplish this, more power to them.”

Not being a parent, I’m somewhat baffled here: why would you want to sit your child through a film based around the themes of sex, violence and profanity, even if it is filtered?

Nevertheless, the studios are unhappy about someone else, the consumer with some software, having the final cut on their films. So this is all about artistic integrity is it? No, this is Hollywood.

Jack Valenti, MPAA CEO testified that legislation wasn’t necessary because studios are already working with movie filtering companies and directors to create new, edited versions of popular films that are more family friendly. Of course, having two versions of a film in the shops means more sales for the movie industry, whereas just one version means that it’s the filtering company that makes the money and not the studios.

Valenti’s statement

Lamar Smith on the Family Movie Act

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?