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

Android Leftovers

Linux Devices

  • How does the PocketCHIP compare to the Raspberry Pi?
    When the Raspberry Pi hit the tech scene, it made a huge impact. It wasn't the first tiny computer, by any means—the Chumby, the PogoPlug, and other hackable systems on chips preceded it—but there hadn't been anything quite so intentionally open and affordable as the Pi. You didn't have to hack the Pi, you just put an OS on an SD card, booted, and you were running an open source computer. The computer you were running only used a dozen watts of power, and it wasn't encased in a bulky plastic body that would end up in the landfill when you decided to upgrade.
  • LibreELEC 8.0.0 Officially Released for Raspberry Pi SBCs with Kodi 17 "Krypton"
    The development team behind the open-source LibreELEC operating system for Raspberry Pi and other embedded devices proudly announced today, February 22, 2017, the release and general availability of LibreELEC 8.0.0. Dubbed Krypton, LibreELEC 8.0.0 has been in development since early October last year, during which it received over 200 nightly builds, no less than ten official Alpha versions, and a total of three Beta releases. It's built around the recently released Kodi 17 "Krypton" open-source media center, so you'll enjoy all of its cool new features.
  • Tiny, rugged, fanless mini-PC runs Linux on quad-core Bay Trail
    ADL Embedded Solutions unveiled a tiny rugged mini-PC with quad- or dual-core Atom E3800 SoCs, HD video, 2x GbE, wide DC input, and -40 to 70°C temps. A couple of months ago, San Diego-based ADL Embedded Solutions unveiled a compact ADLE3800SEC single-board computer, featuring quad- and dual-core Atom E3800 processors and based on a new, 75 x 75mm “Edge-Connect” SBC form-factor. Now, the company has built a rugged, 86 x 81 x 33mm “ADLEPC-1500” mini-PC around it.
  • Understanding the Second Phone: That is Now Almost Always Also a Smartphone
    As I am finishing the new TomiAhonen Almanac 2017 edition, as always when looking at the data, I am noticing patterns. Ones that catch my eye are the exceptions. Where a given trend line does not conform to the overall industry growth curves. The 'second phone' fits this pattern. It is 'bucking the trend'. I have been reporting on second phones on this blog and in my books for ages and I have been asking for industry analysts to go measure their count. This is still a murky area for which very little data exists but we can estimate its size reasonably well if we take the total population of phones in use, and subtract the number of mobile phone owners who report having at least one active mobile phone and account. So the current numbers fresh from the TomiAhonen Almanac 2017, tell us that the world has 5.15 Billion unique mobile phone users (owners) - this is a number that increasingly is now also reported by others like Ericsson, Cisco and the GSM Association; and I did the comparison of this data point earlier this week to see how valid it is. (It is very valid).
  • FLOSS Weekly 422: Arduino Update

Ubuntu Leftovers: Augmented Reality Helmets With Ubuntu, Ubuntu 17.10 Plans

  • [VIDEO] Mortenson Talks about How Daqri Smart Helmet Puts BIM Advantages on the Job [Ed: Ubuntu-based]
    Los Angeles-based AR specialist Daqri appears to have made a next-gen breakthrough with the latest version of its Smart Helmet, which was joined earlier this month by a new sister product, Smart Glasses. Daqri unveiled the latter device in Las Vegas at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, which this year featured a raft of new AR products from several manufacturers. Architects are among the market targets for the lightweight Smart Glasses.
  • Skanska UK to test Daqri augmented reality-enabled hard hats
  • Ubuntu-Powered Robots and Augmented Reality Helmets to Be Showcased at MWC 2017
    As expected, Canonical will be present once again at the MWC (Mobile World Congress) event this year, where the company behind the popular Ubuntu Linux operating system will showcase its latest innovations. MWC 2017 is taking place first thing next week, between February 27 and March 2, and we've been informed earlier by Canonical that they are currently finalizing arrangements for their presence at the world's largest gathering for the mobile industry, at stand 3k31 in Hall P3.
  • Ubuntu 17.10 to Ship with Nautilus 3.24 File Manager, without Type-Ahead Search
    Ubuntu GNOME's Jeremy Bicha is announcing today that the soon-to-be-released Nautilus 3.24 file manager will be implemented in the Ubuntu 17.10 operating system, whose development will start in late April this year. It's a known fact that Ubuntu is always shipping with an older Nautilus version because Canonical always includes some patches to offer certain functionality to users. And it looks like these patches need to be updated every time a new Nautilus version is out, though some of them have failed to work do to the file manager's constant refactoring.

Qt 5.9 Alpha Released

I am happy to inform you that Qt 5.9 Alpha has been released today. Qt 5.9 Alpha is an important milestone on our way to the final Qt 5.9.0 release, which is targeted to be released by the end of May 2017. The Alpha release is available only as source packages. Binary installers will be available via the online installer in conjunction with the Beta release as well as development snapshots during the coming weeks. Read more