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censoring movies and parental responsibility

September 24th, 2002

So there is this big controversy over the censoring of movies on home video. The company doing it says that they are making movies suitable for viewing by the whole family by cutting out violence, sex, profanity and other things people object to. Some big name directors have filed a lawsuit against the company to stop them, saying it violates the directors copyright.

It’s an interesting case because it pits consumer rights against copyright integrity. While I think that a consumer should be able to do as they please with a product they have paid for (provided they don’t try to make some sort of profit off it that would violate the copyright; i.e. rebroadcast a move.) I don’t think a company should be able to cut a movie and then sell it to consumers. We all know that, for instance, Saving Private Ryan would be a completely different movie without the cussing and the graphic violence — it would lose all its impact and reality. (Yes you can make a war movie without showing the graphic violence, but part of what makes Private Ryan such a good movie is the emotions that seeing the graphic violence forces the audience to feel and deal with.)

I think I agree with the directors on this one. If a consumer wants to buy the movie and all the fancy software to edit it then they should be able to, or maybe send it to a company to be edited after the fact then ok. But a company that wants to buy these movies and then sell them seams to me to be violating the copyright in that they are editing a copyrighted move and then selling it as new.

The real objection I have to this (we’ll let the copyright lawyers figure out the legality of it.) is that parents would want to show these movies to their kids but not allow the kids to see the sex, violence, drugs, et al that are in the movies. I don’t have kids so feel free to ignore me or flame me on this one but I think that that is a form of putting off a parents responsibilities. If you are going to show the kid the movie, or allow them to watch it, the show them the whole thing and talk to them about stuff. To me the whole idea of buying censored movies, books or music is like living in some sort of fantasy. Anything that the kids would be exposed to in these things in their raw form the kids will be exposed to in daily life and on the news. Kids are not dumb and def, we all know they know this stuff.

Rather than showing a kid some fairy tail about World War II show them Private Ryan and say, “this is why war sucks, but we did it because of this…” and then show them Schindler’s List and say “hate sucks just as much.”

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