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

Debian Updated, Mint KDE Beta, GIMP Preview

Debian 8.7 was made available this last weekend to address the security and major bugs since 8.6 announced August 2016. As usual, those updating regularly don't need to do anything as they're already current. Elsewhere, Linux Mint founder Clement Lefebvre announced a beta for Mint 18.1 KDE, something I'm looking forward to testing. Alexandre Prokoudine, graphics engineer known for Inkscape and GIMP, posted a preview of new features coming in GIMP 2.10. Dominic Humphries recently revelled in the joy of Linux that just works and Jiri Eischmann compiled a list of the latest Fedora accolades, some I've missed. Read more

A Switch for Your Pi

Thanks to the size of the Raspberry Pi, it's possible to build a project like this into just about anything. I don't have an NES case anymore, but if I did, I'd probably build it inside one for added nostalgia. I decided to use RetroPie as the distribution for my project. The great thing about using RetroPie is that it basically solves all the issues on my list. It has the "Emulation Station" front end built right in (Figure 1), which supports navigation via controller. It also has emulators already installed, waiting for ROMs to be added. Truly, using RetroPie as my base saved at least one article on software alone! Read more

Why Linux users should worry about malware and what they can do about it

Preventing the spread of malware and/or dealing with the consequences of infection are a fact of life when using computers. If you’ve migrated to Linux or Mac seeking refuge from the never-ending stream of threats that seems to target Windows, you can breath a lungful of fresh air—just don’t let your guard down. Though UNIX-like systems such as Mac OS X and Linux can claim fewer threats due to their smaller user bases, threats do still exist. Viruses can be the least of your problem too. Ransomware, like the recent version of KillDisk, attacks your data and asks you to pay, well, a king’s ransom to save your files. (In the case of KillDisk, even paying the ransom can’t save you if you’re running Linux.) Read more

Getting my new Asus X540S notebook ready for Linux

A number of my laptops and netbooks have moved on to other homes and other purposes recently, so I have been looking for something new. Last weekend I saw an advertisement for an Asus X540SA at a ridiculously low price (CHF 299 / €280 / £245 / $300), which is always one of my criteria. Another criteria in this case was a 15" screen, and this ASUS has is 15.6", so that made the decision for me. Read more