Saturday, May 22, 2004

Video "Editing" Bill

For those who haven't been following the issue, there is a move afoot to install in DVD players the capability to "edit" out nudity, violence, and profanity in movies. There is some controversy over this, with moviemakers insisting on their "artistic integrity"; i.e. insisting that viewers of their movies on DVD are required to watch the entire movie with their eyelids glued open, lest they miss a moment of the "art" by blinking.

Now Representative Chris Cannon of Utah is introducing a bill that would settle the question and make this on-the-fly editing legal.

I'm a big fan of the arts. I like that people can make movies about whatever they want. But I think people have had enough of all the sex and violence. Many people I know skip these scenes manually already. If this doesn't violate copyright law, how does it violate it to have a machine do the skipping? Do TiVo's violate copyright law when they allow users to skip commercials?

My favorite quote from the article, as I watch the defenders of the "artists" twist themselves into knots trying to justify their position, is the following:
To demonstrate his point that filtering can dramatically alter a message, Berman said he would enter Aho's testimony into the official committee record using "the Berman filter," changing Aho's statement that "ClearPlay does not violate copyright or trademark laws" to "ClearPlay does violate copyright or trademark laws."

Yeah, one has only to go to Oh, THAT Liberal Media to have an example of that principle. And notice that nobody's suing the L.A. Times for copyright violations for filtering the news their way.

UPDATE: I just ran across a Volokh post showing Slate doing this very sort of editing on Kerry. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.