ClearPlay Back In The News

Lawmaker vows to protect tech that lets parents filter DVDs

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, told a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing Thursday that he’s prepared to introduce legislation “to protect the right of parents to shield their children from violence, sex and profanity” — unless litigation between makers and distributors of the technology and Hollywood studios and directors is settled within weeks.

[…] Hollywood strongly objects to the movie filtering technology produced and marketed by companies including ClearPlay, a Salt Lake City business whose chairman testified at the hearing. ClearPlay’s technology allows viewers to skip or mute scenes in DVD movies flagged by company employees as containing violence, sex and nudity, offensive language or other potentially objectionable content.

For analysis, see Ernest Miller’s Copyfight posting: Liberals, Conservatives Favor Different Kinds of Censorship

For hearing materials from the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property, see the following:

May 20, 2004 – Oversight hearing on “Derivative Rights, Moral Rights, and Movie Filtering Technology.”

Witness List, Chairman Lamar Smith, Howard L. Berman, Joanne Cantor, Jeff McIntyre, Bill Aho, Majorie Heins, View Webcast

From the chairman’s statement:

ClearPlay the technology does not create derivative works, does not add new material to a movie, and makes no permanent alterations to a legally purchased or rented DVD. This technology does not violate the copyright and trademark laws of our nation, nor does the technology violate the DMCA. In fact, ClearPlay the technology will only work with legal DVDs. It will not work with a copied DVD.

The technology available today is the electronic equivalent of what my parents did a generation ago to protect their children by muting the sound or fast forwarding over objectionable material.

The issue isn’t whether a movie loses some of its authenticity due to skipping of various audio and video, but whether parents have a right to shield their children from offensive content. I believe that the right of parents to protect their children is essential. And if they choose to designate a third party to help them accomplish this, more power to them.

Since there is an outstanding lawsuit involving several of the companies that create such family-friendly technology, I’ll avoid talking about the lawsuit. Negotiations among some of the parties have been ongoing for eight months and I hope that the participants will resolve their issues.

If not, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and I are prepared to introduce legislation or use other legislative vehicles to protect the right of parents to shield their children from violence, sex, and profanity.

And I leave the reading of Rep. Berman’s statement to those of you who who really want to see some fast footwork. For example, I like this passage in particular and the way it reflects the general failure of copyright legislation to address the problem of access and the the control thereof, the elephant in the room that so many legislators insist on ignoring:

Would the [proposed] legislation only apply to digital works? If so, what nonsense. It means that someone could sell an e-book reader that prevents reading the murder scene in an ebook version of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, but can’t sell the hard-copy book with the offending pages ripped out. Why would legislation protect technology that skips the violent scenes in a DVD version of Platoon, but not protect a service that cuts the same scenes from the VHS version? If both activities are copyright infringement today, why would legislation only immunize the digital infringement?

Music Business Models

When free is profitable [pdf], via TechDirt

The first time Moe played San Francisco, the band didn’t have a song on the radio. It didn’t have a video; it didn’t even have a record deal. Yet the group sold out the 750-seat Great American Music Hall.

The secret to Moe’s success? A community of West Coast music fans had been trading tapes of the New York band’s concerts, duplicating bootlegged recordings and distributing them to friends. The members of Moe never saw a dime off those concert tapes, but they arrived in San Francisco to a full house.

That experience helped shape guitarist Al Schnier’s views on the file-sharing debate.

[…] Bands such as The Clarks or The Rosenbergs, who once toured under Napster’s sponsorship, may not be able to pay (or have their labels pay) hundreds of thousands of dollars to promoters for a chance at getting their songs on the radio. They can, however, give away an equivalent amount in royalties through free downloads and file sharing. The desired result is the same: finding an audience. And to The Rosenbergs’ David Fagin, taking that chance is better than not being heard at all.

“That’s why we signed on with Napster when it was so controversial,” Fagin says. “The alternative was just to be a regular band trying to do radio promo.”

The article goes on to make some suppositions about what a filesharing band might have to do to placate their labels:

At the same time, Guster’s Miller is not keen on the idea of sharing his other income sources with his record label.

“It makes more sense for the labels,” he concedes, “but it’s not like touring is incredibly lucrative. … We make a decent living, but if the record label was to take a percentage of our merchandise and touring, we wouldn’t be able to do it.”

But that’s exactly where The Rosenbergs’ Fagin believes the industry inevitably is headed.

“Labels and artists are going to have to share. The label and the artist will benefit if the label promotes the shows a lot more, and the artist gives them a percentage of concert grosses.”

Alabama’s Judge Roy Moore and (c)

From Slate: Copyrighting the DecalogueDoes Roy Moore love the Ten Commandments so much that he wants to own them? — a "Disney innovation?"

The right to display the Ten Commandments in a government building will surely be the central issue in his presidential campaign, should he heed the urgings of Chatterbox and others to lure Christian right voters away from Bush. But Chatterbox wonders whether another issue will be the right to copyright the Ten Commandments, as Moore seems to have attempted.

If you scroll to the bottom of Moore’s Aug. 25 complaint, which he filed in an attempt to win his old job back, you will find an attachment that reproduces the monument’s “full text,” which of course is the Decalogue, plus a string of quotations from the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the State of Alabama, various Founding Fathers, and other documents touching on the relationship between God and the government of the United States. (Notably absent are any quotations from the Constitution of the United States.) After the quotations, the attachment ends with these baffling words:

Copyright information is inscribed below the quotations on the back of the monument, as follows:

    2001 R.S. Moore

    D.S. Melchior

    R.C. Hahnemann

Arnold Kling’s Thoughts On CALEA & VOIP

Technological Tap Dance

With ordinary phone service, wiretapping is nearly impossible to prevent. Regardless of what equipment the phone user employs, once an agency has access to the phone line, it can tap the conversation.

With VOIP, the opposite is true. The conversation is private unless the system that does voice-to-data translation is designed and implemented to be tappable. If a terrorist wants to avoid having a VOIP conversation tapped, all he has to do is disable the tapping mechanism on his converter or use a converter that was designed without tapping capabilities. My instinct is that it will be easy to hack around any scheme for tapping VOIP calls. The only people whose VOIP calls will be tappable will be people who choose voluntarily to use tappable systems. Terrorists are unlikely to fit that profile.

[…] Any way you look at it, the cost of intercepting electronic communications is increasing and will continue to rise. If the FBI starts trying to dictate the design of hardware and communications systems, the social cost of wiretapping goes up exponentially. Ultimately, a costly, futile pursuit of wiretapping capability will undermine public safety, not bolster it.

[…] The FBI makes it seem as though it is losing a vital capability as VOIP makes telephone tapping more difficult. In fact, other new technologies promise to more than offset the lost wiretapping capability, at much lower cost.

Wonder If He Cleared The Rights?

And, who would you ask? From the art review, ‘New Sound, New York’: At Shows Painted With Sound, Be Prepared to See With Your Ears, a descritpion of a part of “Treble,” the new show at the Sculpture Center in Long Island City, Queens:

For humor, there is Mungo Thomson’s tribute to Bob Dylan — all the applause from Mr. Dylan’s career-spanning 15-volume collection of live recordings — and Euan Macdonald’s “Poor Blumfeld,” matching videos of two blue plastic balls that bounce in and out of sync with each other.

Pop Culture Business Models

It’s not all about CDs and concert venues: From a Legend and a Pop Icon, Fragrance for Men

Estée Lauder is expected to announce today that it will produce a new men’s fragrance in collaboration with Sean Combs, the hip-hop entrepreneur known as P. Diddy, according to executives involved in the deal. The fragrance, to be called Sean John, the name of Mr. Combs’s clothing label, will be released in time for the New York fashion shows in fall 2005.

Estée Lauder passed up the chance to make Glow, Jennifer Lopez’s successful fragrance. This time, an executive said, Lauder was determined not to lose out, adding that it bid for the Sean John contract against Coty, which produces Glow by J. Lo, and also Elizabeth Arden.

[…] One of the most successful fragrance introductions in recent history is Ms. Lopez’s, with sales of $40 million in its first year, according to news accounts.

Nick Hornby on Rock ‘n’ Roll

Rock of Ages

Youth is a quality not unlike health: it’s found in greater abundance among the young, but we all need access to it. […] I’m talking about the energy, the wistful yearning, the inexplicable exhilaration, the sporadic sense of invincibility, the hope that stings like chlorine. When I was younger, rock music articulated these feelings, and now that I’m older it stimulates them, but either way, rock ‘n’ roll was and remains necessary because: who doesn’t need exhilaration and a sense of invincibility, even if it’s only now and again?

[…] In his introduction to the Modern Library edition of “David Copperfield,” the novelist David Gates talks about literature hitting “that high-low fork in the road, leading on the one hand toward `Ulysses’ and on the other toward `Gone With The Wind,’ ” and maybe rock music has experienced its own version. You can either chase the Britney dollar, or choose the high-minded cult-rock route that leads to great reviews and commercial oblivion. I buy that arty stuff all the time, and a lot of it is great. But part of the point of it is that its creators don’t want to engage with the mainstream, or no longer think that it’s possible to do so, and as a consequence cult status is preordained rather than accidental. In this sense, the squeaks and bleeps scattered all over the lovely songs on the last Wilco album sound less like experimentation, and more like a despairing audio suicide note.

Maybe this split is inevitable in any medium where there is real money to be made: it has certainly happened in film, for example, and even literature was a form of pop culture, once upon a time. It takes big business a couple of decades to work out how best to exploit a cultural form; once that has happened, “that high-low fork in the road” is unavoidable, and the middle way begins to look impossibly daunting. It now requires more bravery than one would ever have thought necessary to try and march straight on, to choose neither the high road nor the low. Who has the nerve to pick up where Dickens or John Ford left off? In other words, who wants to make art that is committed and authentic and intelligent, but that sets out to include, rather than exclude? To do so would run the risk of seeming not only sincere and uncool — a stranger to all notions of postmodernism — but arrogant and vaultingly ambitious as well.

Update: Letters in response

Privacy Czar?

They gotta work on the name — a “czar” for privacy? U.S. May Get a Privacy Czar

Reps. Kendrick Meek (D-Florida) and Jim Turner (D-Texas), who are both members of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, introduced a bill Thursday that would establish a federal chief privacy officer position, as well as separate positions at every federal department and agency.

Additionally, the Strengthening Homeland Innovation by Emphasizing Liberty, Democracy, and Privacy Act — or Shield Privacy Act — would establish a 10-member commission, appointed by various government bodies, for overseeing privacy and civil-liberty freedoms related to homeland security initiatives.

“It’s important that we take into account the impact on our fundamental freedoms” when considering emerging technologies, Meek said in a phone conference.