President Bush signed a bill into law yesterday that exempts companies such as ClearPlay from litigation for copyright infringement. ClearPlay, for example, offers a DVD player that will filter out “objectionable” content. Consumers are free to purchase this item or not, depending on the sensitivity of their tastes and the ability of the ClearPlay device to cater to their demands. My initial reaction is that this is a positive move from the government, protecting a potentially prosperous and burgeoning industry.
It certainly is a move that is far superior to the heavy-handed and ham-fisted attempts by the FCC to regulate the decency or appropriateness of content on the supply side (see my thoughts on that here and here). It’s a move that is better even than efforts like the V-Chip, which are required to be included in all TV sets, rather than letting the consumer decide whether he or she wants to buy a set with such technology included.
As is so often the case, the recording and movie industries are well-behind the learning curve. They object to the existence of such technology as an imposition on their art and have sued to prevent companies like ClearPlay from editing the content of movies. Nevermind that such impositions occur everyday in which movies are edited for content and formatted to fit on TV broadcasts.
ClearPlay and others are simply responding to the demands of the market that are borne out of moral considerations. If movie companies had been business savvy, they would have realized sooner that catering to the large segment of the market that has functioning moral compasses could be lucrative. This new industry has sprung up because existing companies were not meeting a desire that existed out in the market.