Family Movie Act as anti-censorship law

Ed Felton argues that the new Family Movie Act (passed by Congress on Tuesday and likely to be signed by the President) actually protects free speech rather than, as some might claim, protects censorship. (The act, for those who haven’t heard, makes it legal to edit out limited portions of a non-pirated home-viewed movie at the direction of a member of that household — so it’s OK to make a DVD player that optionally skips all the sex scenes, scenes with Jar-Jar Binx, or for that matter the sex scenes with Jar-Jar Binx.)

I agree with Ed here — empowering individuals to choose what they want to watch or not watch doesn’t promote censorship any more than movie reviews or the TV remote control do. The only case that would trouble me is if there were a systemic bundling of edits — for example if the only anti-violence filter for a movie also filtered out all the sex scenes. But given that such bundling already happens in the editing room of the movie itself and given that there will likely be competition in this arena (baring broad patents) I don’t see that scenario as likely.