The piracy of ‘family’ entertainment
By Isabel A. Suárez
My wife and I are disturbed by the amount of violence and sex in the movies our children watch. As a result, I purchased software that allows us to remove those scenes from movies. We do this for all of the movies we watch; however, some friends and family members have asked if they could bring their movies over so we could do the same for them. I do not mind doing this, but it takes time and I would like to charge for our services. Is what we are doing legal?
– Concerned Parents
Dear Concerned Parents,
Many parents like you not just concerned, but are downright outraged about the excessive violence and sexual content of movies to which our children are exposed. Legally, if you purchase a movie and edit it for the sole purpose of using it yourself, then there is no copyright infringement. However, the minute you do so and either sell it, or charge for viewing it, that prominent FBI warning at the beginning of the movie kicks in. Copyrights and trademarks were designed to protect inventions and work product of an individual or company that produce them. Therefore, it is only right that they should be the ones to profit from their creation. Any infringement can and could result in both civil and criminal liability (and please note that these folks have the means to protect their interests, and have a well-oiled enforcing posse).
For years now, the studios have protected their interests by suing individuals and/or companies, who have in any way modified their work for monetary gain. The movie and television studios have used the copyright laws in order to prevent any attempts to modify their work. However, a new strategy has emerged in the fight against piracy. Movie studios are now arguing that by removing their copyright protection measures found on the original DVD, you are further violating the copyright laws. As the argument goes, the edited motion picture is then highly vulnerable to further unauthorized copying and other forms of infringement. Quite frankly, you cannot argue with their position because the element of “gain” can come in many forms, and that we all know. Just know there is lots of money in the so-called entertainment industry, which appears to be even recession proof; do not mess with the all-mighty dollar.
After reading your question I thought the answer would be short and to the point. But after speaking to some friends, I am clearly out of touch with the not-so-subtle messages infused into our movies and television shows. Your question has opened my eyes to the amazing number of subliminal messages contained even in the so-called family-oriented shows. I am all for the First Amendment, but the least these studios could do is to have their messages open and notorious, that way we know what we are buying. To do otherwise is deceptive and forces the public to act as amateur editors so their children can keep as much of their innocence until they are ready or otherwise have the maturity to make decisions on their own, and by default, learn. Even if a parent is pretty zealous about what their children watch, the messages created subliminally are incredibly sophisticated and downright shocking.
I want to give these studios the benefit of the doubt and say that some of the messages may be designed to teach our children tolerance and/or moral values. But quite frankly, who wants to leave that up to Hollywood? Now I cannot imagine studio moguls sitting around and purposely trying to corrupt our youth. I am pretty sure they stick to advantageous product placement. So who are these evildoers? Maybe they are some very talented, and bored, computer wizards? But it matters not, if it takes a village, then our children are in trouble and the studios should share in the responsibility.
So, if you are not making money out of editing movies, you are pretty safe. But keep in mind, technology is ahead of you and they will find a way to make them edit-proof. Your best bet is to read the reviews of reliable professionals before purchasing movies. I suggest visiting websites like www.parentingpreview.com and www.movieguide.org. My personal preference is a well-used library card.
Legal disclaimer: The content herein is for entertainment and informative
purposes only, and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk and are advised to seek an attorney if legal consultation is needed. The accuracy of this information cannot be guaranteed as laws are subject to change. Neither the author, the Dayton City Paper, nor any of its
affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.
Isabel Suarez is a Cuban-born American who has been practicing law since 1984. Her diverse multicultural and multilingual practice Suarez & Carlin in Old North Dayton especially serves the regions working poor. Isabel is also a board member of and volunteer for the Ohio Intervention Program. You can reach Isabel by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling her office located at 765 Troy St. in Dayton at (937) 258-1800.