Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

My Family, My Movie

Filed under
Legal

The Family Movie Act of 2005, signed by President George W. Bush on Wednesday, was aimed at folks who use software to cut out four-letter words, nudity and graphic violence from movies they rent or buy for home viewing.

But the law may also loosen Hollywood's tight control over its products. It passes some of the control over how movies are edited to you and, hypothetically, a mini-industry of movie remix artists.

U.S. copyright law makes it illegal to sell edited versions of Hollywood films. But the Family Movie Act says if you use software to "mak[e] imperceptible changes to...limited portions of audio or video content of a motion picture...from an authorized copy of the motion picture," you're OK. Just don't create a "fixed copy of the altered version."

The law came about in part due to the efforts of William Aho and his tiny Salt Lake City software company called ClearPlay. For years, Aho had scratched his head and wondered why Hollywood refused to release on DVD versions of its most popular movies that would be slightly altered to appeal more to squeamish parents. Sensing an opportunity, he founded ClearPlay (see "Monster In A Box").

Aho's software, when installed onto a DVD player, makes the player mute or skip ahead when something objectionable happens in a movie. (The software isn't smart enough to recognize curse words or violence; Aho employs teams of editors who watch movies, find the objectionable bits and program a movie-specific filter to excise the bad stuff frame by frame.) Aho successfully lobbied to create the Family Movie Act after billionaire director Steven Spielberg, Robert Redford, Steven Soderbergh, 13 other famed Hollywood directors and eight large studios sued ClearPlay in U.S. District Court in Denver, claiming its software violated copyright laws. The new law is a direct blow to them.

But could it also seed a new industry? Annual DVD sales are around $16 billion. It's easy to envision a side business in DVD filters. Since it's now OK for ClearPlay to create filters that make Spider-Man 2--produced by Sony (nyse: SNE - news - people )--less violent, it's also legal for bowdlerizers to create filters that would serve other purposes. Somebody, for example, needs to create a filter that would excise all the stupidity about Gaelic poetry in Million Dollar Baby, from Time Warner's (nyse: TWX - news - people ) Warner Bros. studio. Another hot-selling filter would be one that mutes out all the ruinous voice-over in Wonder Boys.

There's a proven market for these kinds of edits; witness what happened to George Lucas' Star Wars: Episode I--The Phantom Menace. In 2001, an alternative version of Lucas' unloved sequel, called Episode 1.1--The Phantom Edit, created a sensation among fans of the 1970s original. Created by a fan, the edited version cut 20 minutes from the film. The excisions all but deleted a dopey character (Jar Jar Binks) and got rid of several other annoyances, like Anakin Skywalker's shouts of "Yahoo!" and "Whoopee!" during the movie's pod-racing sequence.

Lucas went from amused to horrified. And the edit-happy fan--no doubt worried about getting sued--later apologized. If the Family Movie Act had been in force then, he could have been rolling in dough instead.

Aho admits the law "doesn't discriminate" about what kind of filters you would create. "As long as it was purely subtractive, the law supports it," he says. He believes the market for family-type filters is around $100 million, "but I don't think there's much of a market for filters [that aren't] family-friendly."

Full Story.

More in Tux Machines

Today in Techrights

today's leftovers

  • How a Linux stronghold turned back to Windows: Key dates in Munich's LiMux project [Ed: This explains the progression of Microsoft's war on GNU/Linux, typically using proxies]
    The project is temporarily put on hold while a study investigates whether it could be derailed by software patents.
  • End of an open source era: Linux pioneer Munich confirms switch to Windows 10 [Ed: Microsoft paid (bribed) all the right people, got a Microsoft fan -- by his own admission -- in power, gifted him for this]
    Mayor Dieter Reiter said there's never been a unified Linux landscape in the city. "We always had mixed systems and what we have here is the possibility of going over to a single system. Having two operating systems is completely uneconomic.
  • Ubuntu Podcast: S10E38 – Soft Knowledgeable Burn
    This week we refactor a home network, discuss how gaming on Linux has evolved and grown in recent years, bring you a blend of love and go over your feedback.
  • Live ISOs for Slackware-current 20171122
    I have released an update of the ‘liveslak‘ scripts. I needed the tag for a batch of new ISO images for the Slackware Live Edition. These are based on the latest Slackware-current dated “Wed Nov 22 05:27:06 UTC 2017“) i.e. yesterday and that means, the ISOs are going to boot into the new 4.14.1 kernel.
  • Am I willing to pay the price to support ethical hardware?
    The planned obsolescence is even worse with tablets and smartphones, whose components are all soldered down. The last tablet with a removable battery was the Dell Venue 11 Pro (Haswell version) announced in October 2013, but it was an expensive Windows device that cost as much as a mid-range laptop. The last Android tablet with a removable battery was the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (GT-N8000 series), released in August 2012. It is still possible to find mid-range smartphones with removable batteries. Last year the only high end phones with removable batteries were the LG G5 and V20, but even LG has given up on the idea of making phones that will last longer than 2 years once the battery starts to degrade after roughly 500 full charge and discharge cycles. Every flagship phone introduced in 2017 now has its battery sealed in the case. According to the gmsarena.com database, the number of new smartphone models with non-replaceable batteries grew from 1.9% in 2011 to 26.7% in 2014, and now to 90.3% in 2017. It is highly likely that not a single model of smartphone introduced next year will have a replaceable battery.

More Coverage of New Lumina Release

  • Lumina 1.4 Desktop Environment Released
    The TrueOS BSD folks working on their Qt5-powered Lumina Desktop Environment have issued a new feature update of their open-source desktop.
  • Lumina Desktop 1.4.0 Released
    Lumina 1.4.0 carries a number of changes, optimisations, and feature improvements. Lumina is the default desktop of TrueOS, a BSD-based operating system. The desktop itself is lightweight, modular, built using Qt, and uses Fluxbox for window management. Although Lumina is mostly aimed at BSD users it also runs on Linux, including Fedora, Arch and — *mario coin sfx* — Ubuntu.

today's howtos