Fledgling technology that helps parents prevent children from watching movie scenes depicting sex, violence or foul language got a boost Wednesday from the House Judiciary Subcommittee.
The panel voted 18-9 in favor of the Family Movie Act, which would assure manufacturers of DVD players and other devices using such technology that they would not be violating copyrights of the Hollywood producers of movies.
The full House still must approve the bill; no similar proposal has yet been introduced in the Senate.
Critics of the bill argued that it is aimed at helping one company, Utah-based ClearPlay Inc., whose technology is used in some DVD players to help parents filter inappropriate material by muting dialogue or skipping scenes. ClearPlay sells filters for hundreds of movies that can be added to such DVD players for $4.95 each month.
The measure's author, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said the legislation guarantees that parents will be free to use technology to protect what children watch. He compared skipping objectionable scenes in a movie to skipping paragraphs in a book.
"Parents should have a right to show any movie they want and skip or mute any content they find objectionable," Smith said.
Hollywood executives have complained that ClearPlay's technology represents unauthorized editing of their movies. They maintain that ClearPlay should pay them licensing fees for altering their creative efforts.
"You're getting a doctored, reinterpretation of the product," said Dan McGinn, a spokesman for the Directors Guild of America, which has sued ClearPlay in federal court in Colorado alleging copyright violations. "What they have is a new version of the product. It should be licensed."
Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., said the bill "gives for-profit companies the right to commercially exploit the copyrights of movies without input from creators."
Berman said he also was concerned that the same technology could be adapted to automatically remove commercials from cable and network television programs.
The bill is House Resolution 4586.