Your Handy Home Censorship Kit

By Zack Pelta-Heller, AlterNet. Posted May 26, 2005.

Imagine watching When Harry Met Sally without Meg Ryan's orgasmic deli scene, or The Shining without Jack Nicholson uncovering the horrors of Room 237. Imagine watching The Godfather, only Jack Woltz never wakes to a bloody horse head.

To true cinephiles, the absence of such iconic moments might ruin these films completely. To directors and Hollywood studios, such modifications are gross violations of copyright laws and artistic visions. Yet to Bill Aho, CEO of ClearPlay, these classic scenes epitomize the kind of degenerate sex, violence and foul language of Hollywood entertainment that consumers should have the power to purge from their movies.

"It's really a matter of personal choice in your home," Aho told me. "Should you have the right to experience media your way, or should the preferences of the director follow you into the living room?"

Aho is not alone. Bowing to the growing number of Americans who demand "family-friendly" entertainment, President Bush signed the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act (FECA) a couple of weeks ago. On the whole, this legislation benefits Hollywood by making it a federal crime to videotape films in movie theaters. FECA also imposes stiff penalties of up to 10 years in prison for anyone caught distributing movies or songs prior to their commercial release dates. The part that has the Directors Guild of America (DGA) up in arms, however, is the controversial Family Movie Act.