RealTime IT News

Content-Skipping Bill Headed For Law

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly supported technology over Hollywood Tuesday afternoon. On a voice vote, the lawmakers approved legislation allowing companies to sell filtering technology that skips ads, violence and obscene content in movies.

Motion picture studios fought the measure, claiming the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act (S. 167) violates copyright protections and infringes artistic integrity.

Unconvinced, the House endorsed the legislation already approved by the Senate and the bill now goes to President Bush, who is expected to make it law.

"These days, I don't think anyone would even consider buying a DVD player that doesn't come with a remote control," bill author Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) said. "Yet there are some who would deny parents the right to use the equivalent electronic device that would protect their children from sex, violence, and profanity in movies watched at home."

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) said the bill clarifies existing language in order that "existing copyright and trademark law cannot be used to prevent a parent from utilizing available technology to skip over portions of a movie they may find objectionable."

Salt Lake City-based ClearPlay, which produces parental control technology for DVD players, hailed the vote as victory for the company and for parents.

"This is tremendous news for ClearPlay and a real victory for families," ClearPlay CEO Bill Aho said in a statement. "This ensures that parents will have the tools to control the movie content their families and children see in their own home. And, it means ClearPlay has a clear path to more significant business development opportunities."

Hollywood-based Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) fought the measure to the end.

"What some of us do debate is the right of a commercial enterprise to peddle a technology which fundamentally alters the creator's workand then make a commercial profit without the permission of the copyright owner," Berman said.

Hollywood, however, did not go away completely empty handed in the vote. Another provision of the bill criminalizes the use of camcorders in movie theaters. The bill also requires the Register of Copyrights to establish rules for the preregistration of works being prepared for commercial distribution.

In addition, the legislation imposes a stiff jail term of up to three years and fines maxing out at $250,000 for the unauthorized online distribution of pre-release movies, music or other works.

"Even more detrimental to copyright owners than camcording a movie in the theaters is the effect of distributing an unauthorized copy of a movie or sound recording as it is prepared for commercial distribution," Berman said.

"Distributing a film before final edits are made can undermine artistic integrity and can also harm the film's commercial prospects because the release is typically coordinated with a marketing effort."