Dr. Ted Baehr is the founder and publisher of MOVIEGUIDE, chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission, and a well-known movie critic, educator, lecturer and media pundit. He also is the author of several books, including "The Culture-Wise Family" with legendary entertainer Pat Boone. For more information, please call 800-899-6684 or go to the MOVIEGUIDE website.More ↓Less ↑
Like a bad remake of a bad film, the federal courts have once again ruled against common sense and decency. Although in 2004, a unanimous Supreme Court overruled, on technical grounds, a 2003 federal court decision that told parents their children could not proclaim “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, another federal court on Monday placed the “creative artistic expression” of Hollywood directors over the ability of parents to choose for themselves what their families can watch.
The first overturned federal court ruling denied the fundamental right of Congress to author the Pledge of Allegiance, the intent of the Founding Fathers, the clear language of the Constitution, the religious history of America, the First Amendment rights of parents and families to acknowledge God, the role of Providence in the affairs of our nation, and the right of Americans to worship how they wish and say what they want. The second federal court determined that companies editing out offensive material on DVDs and videotapes bought by families could not do so.
Putting on my lawyer’s hat for a moment, let’s look at the fallacy in the recent court reasoning.
The Supreme Court held in the Sony Betamax case many years ago that when you buy a video, DVD or whatever, it is yours. You can use it for a doorstop, you can copy it, and you can even put it up for sale on eBay. You own it.
So, let’s say you’re not sophisticated enough to edit out the bad stuff, so you ask your savvy 25–year-old son to do it. Or, if he’s not available, you hire the boy next door, or you ask the video store. All of these should be within the Supreme Court’s protection of your rights of ownership, as declared in the Sony Betamax case. That’s why CleanFlicks and several other companies that sanitize movies brought the case against the studios, thinking that there was no way they wouldn’t win a judgment declaring they had a right to serve the people who actually own the videos.
The copyright law is very important in protecting the works of authors such as yours truly. But, those rights have always been balanced, since the earliest debates on copyright, by the right to free speech, the right to own private property and the right to the free exchange of ideas. Up to a few years ago, this meant that you could quote significant passages of a book or show sections of a movie in a class. You could do whatever you want with the book or video you own, or sell the movie or book on eBay or to your best friend.
Now, however, U.S. District Judge Richard P. Matsch has upset the balance, and the movie studios, using their collective economic might, have claimed more protection under the copyright law than what is there.
The courts should not kowtow to the entertainment industry and subvert the rights of families to watch their own movies without objectionable content. Families should have the right to protect the eyes of innocence and enjoy good entertainment. It represents the pinnacle of arrogance for Hollywood directors to claim artistic infringement and dismiss the concerns of their own audience. This is not only irresponsible craftsmanship, it is bad business – and the box office numbers prove it.
Since the studios won’t allow families to buy cleaner airline versions or even the edited network television versions and the courts won’t let them buy CleanFlicks, they’ll just have to consult MOVIEGUIDE? more often so they can reject the bad and protect their children. Besides telling parents about bad movies, MOVIEGUIDE? can help families teach their children and grandchildren about the Good, the True and the Beautiful. Then, someday, your children or grandchildren may grow up to bring sense and sensibility to the judicial branch of our government.