Darren Barefoot
Darren Barefoot


The Commons

About digital rights, environmentalism, etc.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

I'm having a crisis of conscience. From (the irony free zone of) The Salt Lake City Tribune:

The EEF...filed a federal court brief Wednesday in support of companies that make software to edit violent or sexual scenes from DVD films...But EFF argues that companies that create software to edit out "filth" in DVDs are different from CleanFlicks [who make modified DVDs] because the product doesn't actually alter the DVD. As the DVD plays in a home computer, the program skips violent or sexual scenes.

I'm a big fan of the EFF and, as you can read about here and here, a big opponent of companies that make modified versions of films.

To me, this is just an end-around the bigger issue of 'cleaning' DVDs. If a company provides software that edits a DVD, it amounts to the same thing as a company distributing an edited DVD. By commodifying the process, you're not (as the EFF states) "empowering consumers"--you're providing them with a bastardized product--a work of art that the artist never intended you to see.

But, then, how does this differ from the letterboxing that is done to better 'fit' films to television screens? I'll tell you how it differs--there was plenty of money to be made in showing films on television. Hollywood's not concerned about losing money here--these people will probably watch the unedited versions of the films anyway.

In short, I can't back the EFF on this one. While I support the right of individual consumers to modify art for their private use, these companies are effectively modifying art works and reselling them. The technological means is mere legal nitpicking.

11:47:36 PM        Internet Technology The Commons

Jeff Trigg, at Random Acts of Kindness, raises an interesting if controversial point about families and taxation:

So why do people with children get tax breaks to begin with? Because children cost more. Duh. So liberals (and too many Republicans) are willing to admit that children cost more, but are unwilling to ask for more money from those with children. However, these same liberals use the arguments that smokers cost society more, and people who don't wear seatbelts cost society more, and people who don't wear helmets on motorcycles cost society more, and people who drink alcohol cost society more, so those people should be taxed or fined more to balance their cost to society.

I tend to agree with this. After all, why motivate people to have children? We've got a growing population and shrinking resources, so it's hardly socially beneficial to encourage larger families.

Unsurprsingly, Jeff is a libertarian. Up until today, I had only the vaguest notion of what that was. After a bit of Googling, I give you the difficult-to-spell www.libertarianism.com. Here we can read what it is and, more conveniently, get some handy, short definitions:

Libertarianism is a philosophy. The basic premise of libertarianism is that each individual should be free to do as he or she pleases so long as he or she does not harm others. In the libertarian view, societies and governments infringe on individual liberties whenever they tax wealth, create penalties for victimless crimes, or otherwise attempt to control or regulate individual conduct which harms or benefits no one except the individual who engages in it.

On a related point, Jeff and I have gotten into a healthy debate over governments' participation in marriage.  

5:39:47 PM        Politics The Commons