The Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005 has made its way through Congress and is now heading toward the White House for George Bush’s signature. The bill includes new criminal penalties for people caught pirating movies and legalizes the production of DVD players (like those from ClearPlay) with filters that allow consumers to mute or skip objectionable language or scenes. Objectionable to whom? This is from ClearPlay’s website:
The ClearPlay service uses “ClearPlay Filters” that are associated with each different movie. The ClearPlay filters are compiled by our staff of movie professionals. These professionals go through individual movies and identify content which may have contributed to a movie’s PG-13 or R rating. The content they identify generally falls under the categories of graphic violence, sexual content, and language.
The user-interface is very simple. You can turn ClearPlay ON or OFF with a single setting. You can also customize your filter preferences by adjusting 14 different filter settings (that gives you 16,384 potential user configurations!). Based on your settings, content will be skipped over or muted during playback of the movie. Great care and effort is taken to ensure that although certain content is removed, the continuity of the story is maintained, and the presentation retains its entertaining value. Many say the end result is similar to an airline or television presentation of the movie.
According to news reports, various film industry groups vigorously opposed the cleansing provisions. The objections appear to be based on some inflated notion of artistic freedom. Count me on the side of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, whose attorney said, “Once you have the DVD in your living room, it’s nobody’s business how you choose to watch it.”