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Monday, May 02, 2005

MY FAMILY, MY MOVIE, AND OUR CULTURE

When I read the reports about the Family Movie Act this week in Congress, I was enraged by the film industries acceptance and support. Basically, the industry demonstrated they could care less about the intregity and rights of authorship and even infringement. The Family Movie Act is a glaring example of how the film and music industry cannot claim they have one ounce of concern for the artists, their work, or the culture of creative entertianment.

Of course, certain politicians in Washington turned the Family Movie Act into a right-wing ideological diabtribe and a partisan rant that defies reason. The act turns authorship and the authenticity of original works into a joke. Presumably the Act allows software filters to edit films to suit the tastes of, well, basically a programmer with an attitude or bias what ever it may be. The filter can act to edit out offensive words referring to parts of the human anatomy but likewise, it can just as easily apply a filter edit to include only profanity, sex and violence. The only perversion being demonstrated is the destruction of the original work by the artist or filmmaker. The violation comes through the act of editing, not what it is chosing to censor. While the filters exploit and use original intellectual property, they show nothing by contempt for its original creator.

In exchange for their support of the Family Movie Act, the film and music industry were given greater legal mechanisms and tools to pursue and prosecute consumers. And these consumers are commiting crimes no more grave than music and movie fans who collected films by recording them off TV with their VCR or recorded albums off their favorite long-play FM radio station 20 years ago. By some perversion of intelligence, the film and music industry must think two horrendous wrongs (censroship and abusing their customers) must make one right.

The reason the film and music industry have resorted to abusive actions against consumers is that for the past 5 years years or more, the companies failed to embrace the changing demands of the consumer and seek ways to better provide products and services to people who want them. The irony is while there is a boom in the demand for entertainment and new delivery systems, the industry is bashing and persecuting its most avid fans and first adopters.

In the long run the punitive actions of the industry will hurt everybody including themselves. Greed and the need to control with an iron fist will destroy the marketplace. Ulitmately, while the film and music industry also strongly opposed the advent of VCRs and cassette tapes whose technology was open enough to allow users to collect favorite tracks, albums and shift viewing or listen times, but Congress and the Courts protected consumers from their abuse. In the end, with the previous generations of technology, it became very profitable for the entertainment industry to allow cultural appreciation to grow, freedom for content creators, and innovation among culture enthusiasts.

It is time for industry associations and lobbyists to step back and take a longer view of our cultural heritage and avoid the narrow blinders of greed and political horse trading with those who wish to restrict artistic freedom.

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