4.10.1 Films and copyright
The My.MP3.com case is about where we listen to music and whether ‘space shifting’ is allowed, i.e. if I can prove I own the CD, I can listen to it from anywhere that I have internet access.
Another more recent case deals with a conflict over how we watch a film. The Directors' Guild of America (DGA) has sued a number of companies that make DVD playback software. The software runs as the film is played and allows the viewer to skip certain scenes they may want to avoid, such as those containing violence or bad language. The software acts as a sort of automatic remote control.
Yale's Ernest Miller criticises the DGA: ‘Ultimately, the issue is one of control. Technology has given consumers the ability to control how they watch movies in their homes, and the DGA wants to take that control away by banning the technology.’
The DGA has a different view: ‘The Directors Guild of America will vigorously protect the rights of its members, and we are confident that any efforts to legitimize the unauthorized editing and alteration of movies will be resoundingly defeated.’
Some of these companies are offering their services over the internet. The DGA sees it as a straightforward case of infringing copyright by making so-called ‘derivative works’ for commercial gain. Miller and other critics of the DGA suggest it is all about control, and that these software makers could even increase the market for the films by allowing them to be viewed by people who would otherwise shun them. Note: In July 2006 a federal court judge agreed with the DGA, despite the US Congress having enacted the Family Movie Act of 2005 in the interim, which basically enabled filtering as long as no fixed copy of the edited film was made.