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

Leftovers: Gaming

  • Company of Heroes 2 Might Be Coming Out For Linux
    While last year developers on the Company of Heroes 2 game said a Linux port was unlikely, recent Steam activity indicates that a Linux port is likely in the works. Company of Heroes 2 is a World War II set real-time strategy game developed by Relic Entertainment and sequel to the original Company of Heroes game. The Company of Heroes 2 title is powered by the Essence 3.0 Game Engine, which is proprietary to Relic Entertainment, uses a DirectX renderer, and designed around Windows. Company of Heroes 2 was released last summer for Microsoft Windows and is available on Steam.
  • Metro 2033 Redux Will Hopefully Hit Linux Real Soon
  • Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth for Linux No Longer Has a Release Date
    Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth, the next game in the Civilization series developed by Firaxis, no longer has a Linux launch date. When 2K Games and Firaxis announced that the upcoming Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth launch will also include a Linux version, gamers were ecstatic. This was supposed to be the silver bullet for the Linux platform, but it looks like we're going to be skipped.
  • Civilization: Beyond Earth for Mac has been postponed indefinitely
  • SteamOS Beta 133 Released
    Besides the normal security fixes, this release features a newer Linux kernel (no specifics) that boasts more network drivers and better Intel graphics performance. On top of that this release also features the Nvidia 340.32 drivers which fixes some of the white screen bugs when switching between modes.
  • SteamOS Update 133 Has Better Intel Performance, VA-API
    Valve released this morning the 133 update to the SteamOS Alchemist Beta. With this update comes new packages and other updates.
  • Crystal Picnic, A Colourful 2D RPG Released
    Crystal Picnic is a lighthearted and colourful tribute to the classic era of action RPGs! Join a sarcastic gardener and a wannabe knight as they journey across the kingdom chasing after ants who stole magic crystals from the castle. Oh, and did we mention the ants have gone mad because they're EATING those crystals? Yeah, that makes things much more unpredictable! Hours of exploration, mesmerizing platform-style combat, plenty of new friends to meet and loads of wacky enemies to encounter. When you fight chubby birds and ants carrying bazookas, you know you're in for a good time!
  • Metro 2033 Redux Shows Up in the Steam for Linux Database
    Metro 2033 Redux, a remake of the original Metro 2033 FPS released back in 2010, will be getting a Linux release on Steam for Linux. The developers from 4A Games have reworked the original title and they have introduced high resolution textures and new effects. In addition to that, they have reworked a number of gameplay aspects too. All of these have been done to get the game ready for Xbox One and PlayStation 4. They didn't ignored the PC, and Steam users will also be able to enjoy the game in a new coat.
  • Team Fortress 2 Receives Update with Important Balancing Changes

Linux on the desktop isn't dead

At LinuxCon this year, the creator of Linux, Linus Torvalds, was asked what he wanted for Linux. His response? "The desktop." For years, the call to Linux action was "World Domination." In certain markets, this has happened (think Linux helping to power Android and Chrome OS). On the desktop, however, Linux still has a long, long way to go. Wait... that came out wrong. I don't mean "Linux has a long, long way to go before it's ready for the desktop." What I meant to say is something more akin to "Linux is, in fact, desktop ready... it just hasn't found an inroad to the average consumer desktop." Read more