Family Movie Act Moves Ahead in House


Legislation to allow the filtering of various degrees of sex, violence and profanity from movies is moving forward in the House of Representatives, furthering concerns of censorship and copyright infringement while eliciting praise of an approaching victory for family values.

The Family Movie Act (H.R. 4586), sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) would address a lawsuit by the seven major Hollywood studios and the Directors Guild of America against ClearPlay, one of a half-dozen filtering services, and allow the sale of DVD players with filtering technology.

The legislation is another sign that lawmakers are concerned about the level of sex and violence in the media. Those concerns have been expressed in other ways, including proposals that could require cable companies to sell programming a la carte.


The act is expected to bypass opposition in the House Judiciary Committee and move to the full Senate shortly.

“Parents should have the right to show any movie they want and to skip or mute over any content they find objectionable,” said Smith, chairman of the Courts, Internet and Intellectual Property Subcommittee, two weeks ago.

The technology does not alter the movies before or after they are purchased.

Rather, the technology is programmed into a DVD player, which offers an off-on switch and 14 degrees of filtering, or is available separately for computers.

A movie viewer could opt to block strong action violence or gory, brutal violence; disturbing and gruesome images; and crude sexual content.

Or, to a lesser degree, viewers could block “highly sensual dialogue and situations,” “highly provocative and revealing clothing” or “vain or irreverent references to God or a deity.”

Drug use, racial and social slurs and crude humor also can be isolated.

The Directors Guild of America said the move by Congress would “erode the nation’s copyright laws by permitting companies to market software that edits the content of films.”


“This legislation is about much more than giving consumers a choice in what they watch and don’t watch,” the DGA said in a statement. “Unidentified employees of electronic-editing companies make the choices of what is edited out of each film they review — it is their choices that govern and not the consumer’s.”

Bill Aho, CEO of ClearPlay, said the degree to which content is edited would be left up to viewer’s discretion.

“I’m not editing anybody’s work,” Aho said. “I’m choosing to create my own experience. It seems to me that’s my right in my home.”


Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Calif.) opposes the measure because he said parents already have the ability to bypass content they don’t want children to view with the flick of a remote control.

While the bill is marketed as targeting sex, violence and profanity, “nothing in the bill limits it to such edits,” Berman, the subcommittee’s ranking member, said.

He claimed the measure would “would legalize a far wider and less desirable universe of filters.”

Producing different edited versions of movies, such as those for airlines and cable TV, has been common practice in the industry, but producers usually insist on inclusion in the process.